Singer, duet, band, poet. Repeat.
This is the format of The Round, an all-encompassing art experience that breaks the confines of normalcy in more ways than one.
On Friday, scores of students and art lovers flocked into the small upstairs ballroom at The Fremont Abbey. The candle-lit room filled quickly as roughly 100 people took their seats, not knowing what to expect. Art-covered walls, a red-carpeted stage, three chairs and two easels set the scene. It was a night beyond what many had anticipated, as this space was home to the very first college version of The Round.
An idea originally sparked in Seattle nine years ago, The Round has rapidly spread across the Pacific Northwest. Gabe Much, vocalist and guitarist of The Cellar Door, explained it as “a show, a night, a space, an energy, a community: one face of the collaborative spirit.” Each monthly show integrates a myriad of art forms while simultaneously grasping the attention of the crowd. In over 100 shows, The Round has hosted more than 600 artists, including Noah Gunderson and Robin Pecknold of Fleetfoxes.
This Friday showcased solely college-aged performers. All but one are current Seattle Pacific University students. “My boss came to me and asked that I bring together fellow students for a show of some kind,” said sophomore Cody Kilpatrick, an intern at The Fremont Abbey. “I usually am behind the scenes at The Round performances, and I thought ‘why not take this idea and run with it?’”
As the curator and producer of Friday’s event, Kilpatrick helped scout musicians, painters and slam poets to collaborate on one stage. “Chill is the buzzword for tonight, just so you all know,” he said to the crowd at the beginning of the night. “Whoever says it enough times will get a prize… and the prize will be Zach,” he said, referring to sophomore Zachary Meyers. This opening comment elicited wild roars of laughter and cheering, a reaction that resonated throughout the five “rounds” of the night.
Meyers was the first performer. Singing a total of five songs with two varying instruments, his songs ranged from mellow love songs to a Childish Gambino cover.
Second up was Kilpatrick and sophomore Skye Perrin’s duo, Of The City. With an upbeat tone and bubbly tunes, they sang mainly originals, harmonizing and smiling with every verse. Their final song, titled “Stairwell,” was named after the Ashton stair steps where they first began making music together.
The following act was by White Lightning, a band made up of juniors Julian Anderson, Johnny Tollefson and high school senior Parker Bowen. They broke up the folk sound with electric guitar and drum solos amidst classic rock covers like “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Spoken-word was also integrated at each interval, featuring Seattle Pacific sophomore Zach Caldwell. Topics ranged from a critique of fedora-wearing college kids to a reprise of a wandering homeless man’s song.
“If you don’t necessarily connect to the music aspect though, you can turn your attention to the art,” sophomore Siera Flintoff said about Friday’s incorporation of visual art. On either side of the stage artists Kristine Cooper and Bethany Tan painted to every song, each stroke stretching colors across the canvas and their movements casting candle-lit shadows on the walls. “I can’t paint in a blank, silent room,” Cooper said. “Music sets the mood and stimulates my mind in order to make art, that’s why this event is so cool. There is also no pressure, because every stroke can be layered upon.”
A similar comfort was felt between both artists and audience, as participation was key in adding to the “chill” ambience of the night. After the 10-minute break mid-show, a happy birthday song broke out, accompanied by staccatos of laughter and comments between acts.
As the night came to a close, the energy was almost palpable. Musicians came together for a collective. Painters made their final brushstrokes and audience members clapped to the beat as poets and students sang along to the familiar melody of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”