1BlueString is not only the first music festival to be held at USD, but it’s also the first one centered around sexual assault awareness. While musicians will be performing, raising awareness for male sexual assault victims will be taking center stage.
Bridget Diamond-Welch, assistant professor of political science and criminal justice and director of ICARE said she came across the idea of 1BlueString a couple years ago.
“I was really intrigued with the idea of having a music festival that spread awareness that sexual assault doesn’t have a gender or sexuality,” Diamond-Welch said. “Anyone can be a survivor of sexual assault. The reason why I liked 1BlueString is because you have guitars swap out one string for a blue string that stands for the one in six men who will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.”
In addition to music, there will be several speakers between the sets to address sexual assault and the importance of awareness.
“I knew that a lot of the focus would be on women when we started this event, so I was really interested in focusing more on men in sexual assault,” Diamond-Welch said. “On top of that, I really like that idea that you switch a string out as you play music with your band. To me, that really symbolizes how something beautiful can come out of trauma if you have the support and encouragement of those around you.”
President Sheila Gestring will open the festival and the bands and speakers will follow. The Student Counseling Center, Vermillion Police Department, Title IX, and Domestic Violence Services will be giving talks throughout the festival.
1BlueString is sponsored by USD Housing, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, ICARE, and the departments of arts and sciences and political science.
The acts that will be featured are Marcus Destin, Her Grace, Bluff Ridge Band, Would You Kindly?, Beard, The High Howlers, Spleen Diva, and Humbletown.
Marcus Destin, sophomore communications major will kick off 1BlueString on Friday with his original rap stylings.
Four years ago, Destin started writing poetry and decided to experiment with rap. He invested in his own equipment and decided to share his original music with others.
“I had already done poetry and then I put it on a beat and a lot of people liked it, so I just tried my hand at rapping,” Destin said. “I invested in myself and my equipment and did it whenever I had the chance.”
As the opener for 1BlueString, Destin said he is excited to set the tone for the entire festival.
“The cause is phenomenal,” Destin said. “I think it’s something that’s talked about as frequently, not putting down anybody of any gender identity that’s been sexually assaulted. This is a dope way to acknowledge that this is something that’s as important as anything else.”
Grace Claeys is a music teacher from Sioux City who is just beginning her journey as a solo singer. As of last summer, performing alone has been something entirely new for her.
Claeys performs covers and some original music, with an indie-pop flair. She plays the piano, guitar, ukulele and the bass.
“I have a looper, so what that does is give me the ability to play multiple instruments at the same time and have a fuller sound like a band, but normally it’s just me on stage,” Claeys said. “It’s a big learning experience. Having to cope and figure out how to do things completely by myself has been a process because I’ve never done it before.”
Claeys is preparing to release her first EP this fall and said she has enjoyed discovering her own sound through all the instruments she plays.
As a fairly new solo singer, Claeys said she is excited to make her debut at 1BlueString.
“The movement with sexual awareness is something I want to be a part of,” Claeys said. “I was more than excited to be a part of this. I think it’s wonderful and that there should be more things like this.”
Bluff Ridge Band
Bluff Ridge Band is a Vermillion-based band that has been around for about six years. Made up of police officers and professors, Bluff Ridge Band is a four-person band with tastes from American folk music to classic rock.
Chad Passick, Vermillion police captain, is the acoustic guitar player of Bluff Ridge Band and said he is looking forward to being a part of 1BlueString.
“Once we heard what it about the 1BlueString cause, we were in,” Passick said. “We never gave it a second thought. It’s a great opportunity for us to work together with a number of other musicians to bring awareness to the issue of sexual violence and to support its victims.”
Along with Passick, Kyle Brouwer is the lead guitarist, Tommy Craig plays the drums and Chuck Schwartz plays the bass. They have varied music influences and enjoy blending together anything from outlaw country to Americana.
Passick said he and the members of Bluff Ridge Band are eager to get onstage and connect with the audience at 1BlueString.
“The best part of performing is the unique opportunity to reach people through music,” Passick. “There’s nothing better than hitting all the notes right, and feeling it come back at you in the form of energy from your audience.”
Would You Kindly
As a student band, Would You Kindly is a little over two years old and a blend of many different styles, ranging from pop-punk to jazz.
Would You Kindly is made up of four members, Hunter Milner on vocals, Andy Copple on guitar, Elijah Carrier on bass and keyboard, and Jakob Dirks on the drums.
Hunter Milner said he’s known his band members since high school and always enjoys performing with them.
“We all have our different influences that we bring to the table, ranging from pop to metal, jazz, and even a bit of indie,” Milner said. “A lot of people call us pop-punk, or just alt-rock. We don’t really have a particular genre we stick by. Some of our songs are heavy, some songs are on the poppy side, we kind of just stick to what sounds good to us.”
The members of Would You Kindly heard about 1BlueString on the USD campus and said they were eager to be a part of it.
Bass and keyboard player Elijah Carrier said he is excited to perform at the festival with the other members of Would You Kindly.
“We think very highly of the cause as we ourselves know people we have been taken advantage of, and we think that it’s something people should be more aware of,” Carrier said. “If we can be a part of spreading the awareness, we’re incredibly happy.”
Four USD professors put down the grade books and pick up their instruments to form Beard, formerly known as The Beards. Beard is an alternative-rock band made up of lead guitarist Jacob Kerby, Jeff Wesner on the drums, Joe Raiche on vocals, and bass player Amy Askew.
Dr. Jacob Kerby, biology professor and guitarist for Beard, said music is an expression of creativity.
“We all have jobs and families, so rather than just getting together and banging out some chords or covers, we try to use it as a creative outlet,” Kerby said. “A lot of the songs we do are about relationships and broken people and so I think it resonates with the framework of being human.”
Beard has been playing together for three years and just put out their first original album last year. They also were one of 160 bands selected to perform on the Whitewall Sessions on CBS.
Kerby said he loves the cause for 1BlueString and the opportunity to perform.
“We’re all older, so we have this philanthropic idea of giving back and helping causes,” Kerby said. “I’m an environmental biologist, so I have a lot of these causes that are not major things everyone kind of knows about. This fits perfectly in that. It’s not at the top of our conscience as a society and I think as a stereotypically, males tend to be quiet about things and talk about emotions. So I think it’s a cool way to bring awareness.”
Spleen Diva is a one-person operation ran by Brendan Gayken from Sioux Falls, SD. Gayken has written his own songs since he was younger and his main instrument is the guitar.
Spleen Diva’s genre falls around the neofolk with influences of other artists.
Gayken said when he’s writing music, he’s mostly focused on writing what sounds the most compelling.
“I usually will work out a melody or string of lyrics in my head and I’ll kick it around a bunch until it’s begun to bother me too much,” Gayken said. “I like scheming, provoking reactions, and presenting my work in a way that I think will leave an impression on those who watch and listen.”
When Gayken found out about 1BlueString, he said he knew he wanted to support the cause in any way he could.
“Anyone can be the victim of abuse and assault, so I think it’s important to let people out there who’ve had those experiences know that there are people who support them, will listen to them, and want to help,” Gayken said. “Even if it’s just me making dumb noises.”
Humbletown and USD’s High Howlers will also be making their debut at the festival. 1BlueString will kick off Friday, Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. on the grass space east of Patterson Hall.
Video by William Summers courtesy of Coyote News.