Class project brings live music to Privett Plaza

Editor’s note: James Salazar and Sammy Berlanga are students in Professor Kidd’s Popular Music and Communications class.

Uncle Chris performs uses their performance to get into the Halloween spirit. PHOTO BY JAMES SALAZAR/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

The whistles of a $60 flute, the hefty thumps of a bass guitar, and the humming motor of a bubble machine. These were just a few of the sounds that filled Privett Plaza as media studies Professor Dorothy Kidd and her Popular Music and Communications class hosted a free concert on Oct. 28. The concert featured Uncle Chris, a three-piece student band formed at USF. The event was sponsored by the media studies department, while KUSF, the University’s online radio station, provided both the stage and equipment.

Prior to introducing Uncle Chris, the event’s emcee, Sammy Berlanga, warmed the crowd up by inviting them to do the wave. Berlanga noted that the event allowed the USF community to come together and share their love for music, and her words were met with rounds of cheers and applause. 

Uncle Chris, which is composed of vocalist Sue-Ling Kaiser, guitarist Patrick Madden, and bassist Alex Wolfert, serenaded audiences for an hour with their own hits and even a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” Wolfert said it “was cool to reconstruct a song [like that] and play it differently.”

Madden and Wolfert channeled their Halloween spirit by performing parts of their set in a horse mask and a swamp monster mask. Wolfert’s mask “was hiding a little bit of the fright” that came with returning to the stage, and he jokingly told the audience that he was rethinking his fashion choices as he was sweating profusely under his headgear. 

This gig was the latest in the band’s return to in-person performances, as their first comeback show was a jam session in Golden Gate Park. “We got a generator, got together with other bands we’ve played with, and set up in the middle of Golden Gate Park and just put on a little show,” said Kaiser. She noted that this performance was the band’s third time playing on campus. 

The group occasionally traded the role of lead vocalist among its members. Wolfert said that the group’s new stripped back, acoustic sound is “quite nerve wracking, I’m not gonna lie. Not having a big, rhythmic beast to be pumping you along behind you is definitely daunting.” He continued by saying, “Aside from that, it’s been fun. It’s been really intimate, and it’s been cool. We just have a lot of songs that we’re performing that have a bunch of weird tuning, so there’s a new kind of development we have to learn in terms of how we make transitions a little cleaner and stronger.”

In between songs, audience members were invited to a table in the back where they could make buttons with members of KUSF. Other tables had flyers which promoted the various minors and organizations offered within the department. Sophomore media studies major Ava Klubberud enjoyed the festivities and said, “I feel like USF doesn’t really have a lot of on-campus things during the day, so it’s cool to have one and actually be a part of it. I like music, and I’m having a good time. Plus there’s bubbles.”

As dead hour wound down, Uncle Chris thanked those in attendance for taking a break from their school day to come out and listen to their songs. Guitarist Madden, sans the horse mask, said, “I always like playing these kinds of free shows because it’s always kind of low stakes, and you get better by playing live.” He continued by saying, “It would be fun to see more of a music scene at USF.” 

Kidd echoed this sentiment and said, “I hope we can do more. KUSF does a lot of concerts, but it would be good to synergize our energies and bring it together. Also, it’s just a good learning experience for students to see how something like this is set up.” 

According to Kidd, the concert allowed students in her class to understand media by becoming their own producers, and it also gave student musicians an opportunity to showcase their talents. Kidd also said that the event was simply “a good thing to do during the day. To do something joyful and realize that what we’re doing, making culture, actually brings people together.”

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