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Gemma Laurence & Vundabar to perform on Baxter steps for WBOR’s Fall Concert tonight

September 8, 2023

Courtesy of Gemma Laurence
FOLK IT: Gemma Laurence performs at a recent concert. Laurence will perform songs from her latest album, "Lavender," named for her best friend, Aida O'Brien, who will join Laurence for her set tonight.

This evening, on the steps of Baxter House, indie rock band Vundabar will headline the WBOR Fall Concert alongside opener Gemma Laurence. Laurence’s performance is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by Vundabar at 8:45 p.m.

Boston-based Vundabar consists of three members: frontman Brandon Hagen, drummer Drew McDonald and bassist Zack Abramo.

The band formed in 2012 and has released six albums, most recently 2022’s “Good Old.” One of Vundabar’s most popular songs, “Alien Blues,” was released in their 2015 album, “Gawk,” but went viral on TikTok in 2021. After their show on campus tonight, Vundabar will launch a North American tour, starting in Montreal on September 15.

Folk singer-songwriter Gemma Laurence—daughter of Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry C.W. Laurence—grew up in Brunswick. After graduating from Middlebury College in 2020, Laurence now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. and works in the music industry. Professionally, Laurence works on booking and marketing live shows in addition to writing and releasing her own music.

Laurence has released two albums. Her first album, “Crooked Heart,” was produced by Maine-based musician Jud Caswell, who often plays at the Brunswick Winter Market. Describing her music as “Sapphic folk,” Laurence said that she is heavily inspired by her views of nature, poetry, femininity and sexuality. Laurence’s performance this evening will feature her best friend, Aìda O’Brien, who inspired Laurence’s most recent album, “Lavender,” the title of which refers to O’Brien.

WBOR station managers Mason Daugherty ’25 and Emma Olney ’25 said they were excited to bring the two acts to Bowdoin.

When asked how the artists were chosen, Olney said that Professor Laurence had told her about his daughter—whom he calls “GL”—during Olney’s first year at Bowdoin.

“As a music lover, I searched her up on Spotify and very quickly fell in love with her sound,” Olney said. “She often sings about sapphic love in—to me—an older-school, Americana style, which produces a beautiful story. I think that the combination of queer story-telling and older-sounding folk will resonate with our campus population. It feels very genuine.”

“[WBOR] hoped to bring [Vundabar] last spring, but due to scheduling conflicts, it just didn’t work out,” Daugherty said.

Over the summer, Daugherty, Olney and other members of WBOR management pitched bringing Vundabar and Laurence to campus, kicking off the negotiation and planning process that led to tonight’s concert.

Both station managers expressed excitement about the variety of musical sounds the two artists will bring to campus and the possibilities of entertaining more Bowdoin students with a wider range of music tastes.

While past fall concerts have been held in Smith Union or Morrell Gymnasium, Vundabar and Laurence will perform on the porch of Baxter House.

Daugherty noted that WBOR management wanted to take advantage of the end-of-summer weather and host the concert outside. He reminisced about a concert by student band Mistaken For Strangers he attended on the MacMillan House porch early in his first year that introduced him to Bowdoin’s music scene and inspired him to create a similar experience this year.

Olney added that hosting the event at one of the College Houses is also designed to build campus cohesion.

Ben Carroll ’27 said he was looking forward to the WBOR concert and enjoying future live music at Bowdoin.

“Live music has always felt critical to my college experience. It was one of the reasons I chose Bowdoin,” Carroll said. “I think [the concert] will be a good time.”

For Laurence, the concert is something of a homecoming.

“Playing at Bowdoin this weekend feels so special,” Laurence said. “Just [to] finally play a show at this college that I’ve called home for so long.”

John Schubert contributed to this report.


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