Festival on the Upper Lawn

West Fest returns to UCSC with more art and music

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Photo by Matthew Forman
Photo by Matthew Forman

As the sun set and electric guitars echoed across Rachel Carson College Upper Lawn, students danced and sat on blankets at the second West Fest.

West Fest, an event to celebrate students’ artistic endeavors and musical collaboration, drew about 150 students. Students watched local musicians perform, browsed a student art gallery and enjoyed free pizza and cookies on Feb. 24.

The hosts of the event — KZSC, Rachel Carson College Council, Oakes College Senate, Porter Senate and Kresge Parliament — have been planning since fall quarter to bring in more activities and food and avoid last year’s time crunch.

“It takes a couple of months so we can plan it without being super stressed since last year we planned it in maybe a month,” said Oakes Senate chair Fernanda Madrigal. “That was hectic. Plus we didn’t do as much as we did this year.”

Last year’s West Fest drew hundreds, but was limited to music and snacks. Funding for West Fest last year totaled $1,500, whereas this year the budget was $4,000. This year it included an art gallery on the tennis courts.

“Last year we didn’t have a lot of art-related things so we wanted to make it more of a festival of the arts,” said student volunteer Jessica Scherer.

The evening started with second-year singer-songwriter Cori Strell’s acoustic set. The performances continued with a selection of metal, electronic, hip-hop and indie rock from nine other local and student music groups.

Bassist for student band Paper Towels, Frank Kohn, strums along to original songs for the crowd at West Fest at Rachel Carson College. Photo by Matthew Forman
Bassist for student band Paper Towels, Frank Kohn, strums along to original songs for the crowd at West Fest at Rachel Carson College. Photo by Matthew Forman

“It’s a beautiful setting,” said bassist Frank Kohn of the UCSC student indie-folk band Paper Towel. “People can hear the music in between classes, come over and hang out.”

Paper Towel is a band started by second-year students Hughie Allan and Matthew Dragicevic. Frank Kohn and Jon Annunziato later joined the group. They describe their band as “rock ’n’ roll in 2017.”

Allan described performing in front of fellow students as fun and full of synergy. “We know most of these people, so we felt really comfortable.”

Bands sent in applications and samples of their work to perform at West Fest. Last year, KZSC selected the artists itself but this year it was a more collaborative process with Oakes and Rachel Carson Colleges. Oakes Senate chair and West Fest organizer Fernanda Madrigal said she listened to each artist and focused on including various genres.

“We want to make sure there is a lot of diversity when it comes to the music,” said Madrigal. “We kind of get a little bit of everything because not everyone has the same music taste. Last year KZSC picked the music but this year all the colleges were able to get involved.”

This year’s event featured a student art show, face painting and balloon animals. Students submitted their artwork to be shown at the art exhibit, which included self portraits, landscapes and abstract pieces.

“We want to keep it local and make sure the students who have bands and don’t often get the chance to perform at events like this get a shot,” Madrigal said.

The Balloon Art Brigade, SUA and Camp Kesem tabled at West Fest to recruit and raise awareness for their groups.

“Tabling is a great form of outreach as it connects us with students and puts a face to the organization,” said SUA Vice President of Internal Affairs Grace Shefcik. “It allows us to engage with students who we may not necessarily get to engage with otherwise.”

Student-led band, Alms, performs at West Fest this past Friday to over 100 attendees. Photo by Matthew Forman
Student-led band, Alms, performs at West Fest this past Friday to over 100 attendees. Photo by Matthew Forman

This year Rachel Carson, Oakes, Kresge and Porter Colleges created subgroups with members from all colleges and held joint meetings to make sure everyone gave and received input in the process of planning the event.

“It takes a lot of time, commitment and support from the other colleges to make it free for everyone,” Madrigal said. “It’s all about the community feel, helping each other out to pull off an event like this.”