The GW Unplugged series, halfway through its first year, provides student and faculty performers the chance to showcase their musical talent some place other than the music department or residence halls. The GW Blues Band played most recently with guest Monique Douglas Tuesday night at the Hippodrome.
Set in a coffeehouse atmosphere with performers surrounded by students sitting on couches and around tables, the Blues Band began without formal introduction, setting the mood of a casual, loose and free performance.
The student band, including some GW staff, played a varied, entertaining set, taking off with a smooth saxophone and trumpet duet. Band members later took up the guitar and moved into upbeat foot-tapping pieces.
But when Douglas took the stage the mood again changed, with her beautiful, melodic voice leading in classic blues songs like “Stormy Weather,” “At Last” and “The Fool You’re Looking For.” Her efforts carried enough soul to cause pool players in the next room to stop and listen.
Douglas, who has been singing for about eight years, said she loves to sing. Although she is involved in the music department and jam sessions, this was her first time performing with GW Unplugged. She said she met the Blues Band two weeks ago.
GW Unplugged is the creation of Will Stewart, an alumnus of GW, who wanted to “create an opportunity for students to perform in a casual atmosphere.” Stewart said there was little opportunity for performance when he was a freshman.
Many people have never seen the groups on campus, Stewart said, and he hopes that showcasing different types of music every week, such as Latin band “Los Gringos,” gospel choirs, jazz bands and a cappella groups will promote their notoriety. It also gives the songwriters of GW a chance to put their carefully crafted works on display.
Stewart said Unplugged is developing a following, but attendance varies. Stewart said some performances attract audiences of about 50 to 75 people. The a cappella festival, earlier this year, drew more than 200 attendees.
Although some students regularly attend the concerts, Stewart said GW Unplugged usually grabs the attention of people passing by. This can be largely attributed to the performance space of the Hippodrome, in which students come and go, and can easily stumble across a performance.
Sophomore Marissa Ericson said the performances are good for during the week, but the constant shouts of food orders detracted from the experience.
Stewart said he hopes more people will be involved with Unplugged, so that it can continue to cast the spotlight on a side of the music community GW seldom sees.