Strumming a Fender guitar in front of a small audience, Scott St. Dennis approached the microphone in the darkened room of Illusions on the third floor of the University.
“We’re here to put on a little rock and roll show for you,” said Dennis.
Backed up by drummer and vocalist Mike Mahaffey and bass guitarist Brian Wardrep, The Back Pages began their show.
Performing on June 21 at 7 p.m., The Back Pages played as part of the Western Carolina University Summer Concert Series. Normally, the concerts are held on the UC lawn, but due to threatening rain, the band played for listeners and hula hoopers in the WCU night club.
Dennis and his band sang rock and roll oldies and folk rock, which were a hit with the mainly older audience. Occasionally, drummer Mahaffey would sing lead with Dennis and Wardrep as backup singers. During their two-hour show, they sang several known favorites, including songs by ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and adapted Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” to “Cullowhee Girl.”
Meanwhile, audience members sat at the various tables in Illusions or twirled in LED hula hoops.
“[They had] a good mix of songs and a good solid sound,” said audience member and WCU staff member Stuart Strickland. “They play well together.”
As the show continued, the crowd grew larger. Incoming freshmen visiting WCU on their orientation trips wandered in and took a listen to the Asheville-based band.
The Back Pages, whose emblem is a male silhouette reading a newspaper, ended their show with “Come Together” by The Beatles.
Dennis, who has played the guitar since he was nine, said he had a great time performing. This was their third time returning to Cullowhee for the Summer Concert Series, and Dennis said they hope to come back next year. He continued to add that The Back Pages got the name from the band members’ enjoyment of singing songs usually found on the B side of vinyl records.
The Back Pages’ next gig is at the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville from July 27 to July 29.
The Duende Mountain Duo performed on the UC lawn at 7 p.m. on June 28 as part of the Summer Concert Series.
The Duo, led by keyboardist Will Little and drummer Will Stone (also known as “East Coast Dirt” and “Incognito Mosquito”) started in Asheville back in 2007. The band was first known for completely live improvised acts, whereas they now perform with a combination of traditionally inspired DJ effects and computer mixes.
The band takes inspiration from electronic dance music subgenres, such as glitch and grime and dubstep, and bands like French Electro House and Daft Punk. The two combine a steady drum beat with synthesized melodies.
A crowd of around 40 lined the edge of the Alumni Tower as the band began to play. Children danced to the hard beats of Will Stone while adults hula hooped. The longer the concert went on, the more the active the audience became. A crowd of incoming freshman stopped by to listen to the music, while workers at the CRC set up corn hole boards.
The Duende Mountain Duo performed a variety of songs. A combination of pre-recorded synthesized organ melodies with a Chinese song blended together for a sound unique only to the Duo. A powerful yet somehow mellow beat reverberated throughout the WCU campus.
Despite the heavy sounds produced from both Wills, the two kept their heads down, focusing only on the music. When they did pause to acknowledge their enthralled audience, they were met by cheering and clapping.
Will Little strummed his guitar through the length of the concert while also maintaining the keyboard and striking up pre-recorded melodies. Meanwhile, Will Stone focused more on maintaining the beat.
The performance ended with a full crowd dancing and cheering. Parents and future students stood around, getting a taste of summer at WCU.
The Summer Concert Series runs through July 26 with all performances starting at 7 p.m. and ending by 9.