First-year band 20/20 kicks off Ivies, brings jazz, R&B-inspired sounds to campus
May 5, 2017
Comprised of all first-years, student band 20/20 arrived with a bang when they became one of the youngest bands ever to win Battle of the Bands, winning a $500 cash prize and the chance to open for the Smallpools Ivies kick-off concert. When the band opened for Smallpools last Thursday, it performed to a full crowd with a diverse set ranging from Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” to Vulfpeck’s “Wait for the Moment.” It includes singer Hannah Jorgensen ’20, guitarist and singer Parke Aiken ’20, drummer Josh Brooks ’20, bassist Nathan Blum ’20 and saxophonist Dylan Hayton-Ruffner ’20. The band fuses jazz, reggae, hip-hop, R&B and pop genres to cultivate their eclectic sound.
“Dylan and I both have jazz backgrounds, and so that’s definitely our niche, and in the same way, Parke and Josh and Hannah are into rap and pop and reggae. So we are from different areas, but we all intersect,” said Blum.
For Jorgenson, the only woman in the group, the band’s ability to play across genres in a cohesive way is due in part to their desire to venture past traditionally played music at Bowdoin.
“There are a lot of really amazing bands but they’re all representative of one type of music, and one type of sound,” she said. “I think that everyone in my group is very open to allowing different chords and styles to come out … I think a lot of groups do a lot of mainstream white pop music.”
“I’m not only a female singer but I’m also a black female singer, and I think that that’s something,” she added.
Band members enjoyed performing for a large crowd at Smallpools and hope it encourages more people to come to future performances.
The group described having such a large crowd as their favorite part of opening for Smallpools, and hopes the show will encourage more people to come to their performances in the future.
“I think playing at Ivies kind of opened us up to a new crowd that hasn’t been going to our concerts beforehand. Before that we played at Reed and Ladd, and both of them were kind of attended by the same crowd—so hopefully some new people got a chance to hear us,” said Hayton-Ruffner.
While the group hopes to see larger turnout at their future performances, they have been happy with the reception they have received thus far.
“I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by how Bowdoin is to hearing new music. There was the Yonatan Gat show, which we opened for, and Bowdoin people were listening to this crazy Israeli metal jazz guy and enjoying it and getting into it,” said Blum.
“It’s easy to just go to parties and not listen to music and be there and drink and hang out with friends, but to get engaged with the music is also I think a really cool thing for a body to do. Bowdoin, I think, is very happy to be part of a new music culture,” he added.
The group credits the Bowdoin Music Collective and WBOR for helping to cultivate a strong student music scene.
“I think we just hit this nice sweet stride luckily, but this culture of respecting the music has been cultivated a lot by them I think,” said Blum.
In the future, the band’s focus will be on performing original music and taking advantage of better equipment and practice spaces from the college.
“The gear situation needs to be improved because we’re a college with such a large endowment—we should be able to afford some high-quality gear,” said Aiken.
The band thinks that if the College did more to support student bands by providing better equipment, they would not only help the bands but strengthen the social scene of the College as a whole.
“If student band performances were a bigger part of Bowdoin’s social scene it would be more diverse and fun and complex social scene,” said Blum. “The College has been having a lot of trouble with the number of people going to College Houses, or getting on campus parties that people really enjoy, and I think live music is one of many solutions to that.”
Though 2020 has performed covers in previous shows, the band has begun to write original songs that, according to Jorgensen, it hopes to debut soon.
“Down the line our goal is to kind of have our own set and move away from just doing covers of songs,” she said. “I think we’re fully capable.”
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Very happy to see the student music scene get stronger every year. Keep it up 20/20. Do greater and greater things.