Thursday, March 8, 2012

Soul singer strikes a chord

By Alison Haywood, A&E Reporter

It is rare for an ASPLU event to draw more community members than students, but that's what Allen Stone accomplished.

The Seattle-based soul musician drew a crowd of more than 400 people, less than half of whom were Pacific Lutheran students. Fans came from as far as Seattle to see Stone perform in Eastvold Auditorium March 1 at 8 p.m.

The idea for this concert came from sophomore Emily Bishop, entertainment chair of ASPLU.

“I’d heard of his [Stone’s] music and I’ve been really wanting to bring an artist on campus that would be bigger,” Bishop said, “and also one that doesn’t fit into the indie-folk-rock music that we’ve generally been bringing.”

ASPLU moved the concert from the CAVE to Eastvold Auditorium due to an anticipated high turnout.

“With all the community members coming, we didn’t want to turn PLU students away, because this is a show for PLU students,” Bishop said.

Bishop said she got in contact with Stone through Noah Gundersen, another local musician who has performed at PLU.

Gundersen and Stone had worked together previously and were going to perform together at the concert. Gundersen wound up touring with another artist instead, so Bishop arranged to have PLU ’11 alum Jenny Snipstead open the show.

“It’s great to see a PLU alum who’s now a musician performing on stage,” Bishop said. “We’re excited that we get to support PLU alumni even after they graduate.”

Snipstead's performance lasted just short of an hour.

Many community members had never heard of Snipstead before, allowing her to reach out to a different audience.

“I loved every minute of it [the concert], even the first half," Tacoma community member and Allen Stone fan Joshua Vazquez said. "It’s good to know that there’s still talent in the Northwest.”

Seattle community member Phillip Hennings, who has been a Stone fan for two years, described Stone’s performance as “phenomenal.”

Hennings added that he liked the intimate setting the venue provided compared to larger venues he’d seen Stone perform in before.

Sophomore Caitee Borges said Stone sounded different live than on his albums, adding she liked the “passion” and “realness” in his performance.

Hailing from a small town north of Spokane, Allen Stone never had any formal musical training.

He said he picked up the guitar from his parents and learned to sing by imitating artists he liked such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Jamie Lidell and Nikka Costa.

“I just listened to their songs and tried to sing it myself, and sing every note,” Stone said. “That was kind of my voice lessons.”

Stone, the son of a minister, said religious music influenced him from an early age.

“The only part I liked about church was the singing part, and so I would just get lost in it … sing as loud and as hard as possible,” Stone said. “I think when I sing now, I can still get those feelings of safeness, of warmth that I used to as a kid.”

Stone is an independent artist and owns his own label. He said he mostly markets himself on social networking sites, though reviews in publications such as the Washington Post and the New York Times have helped get his name out as well.

Stone said he is in the music industry because music is therapeutic for him.

“I love writing songs. I love expressing myself and trying to top the last song that I wrote,” Stone said. “There’s a lot of reasons [why I play music]. Being a sex symbol and getting famous is not one of them.”

Bishop said her dream is to grow the entertainment program at PLU this year. Since the Allen Stone concert was planned, other artists have contacted Bishop asking to book shows at PLU.

“I think it’s a marker of PLU becoming a name in the area as a place where people want to perform,” Bishop said. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to reach out to the community more, to make more of a presence in the community.”