The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

Pitt band 9FiftySeven wins Pitt Factor, will open for J.I.D. at Bigelow Bash

Pitt+students+perform+in+the+Pitt+Factor+competition+in+the+William+Pitt+Union+Assembly+Room+on+Friday.
Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer
Pitt students perform in the Pitt Factor competition in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room on Friday.

The Pitt Program Council put on their semiannual Pitt Factor showcase, a battle of the bands to compete for an opening spot at Pitt’s semesterly concert. The council hosts Fall Fest in October and Bigelow Bash in April. On April 7, rapper J.I.D will headline this year’s Bigelow Bash.

On the evening of Friday, March 22, eight acts performed at Pitt Factor, consisting of a diverse variety of bands, individual artists and a hip-hop dance group. 

The event started with an explanation of the rules. Performers had exactly 20 minutes to set up, perform their act and disassemble their equipment. A panel of three judges, with representatives from the Program Council, WPTS Radio and The Pitt News, evaluated the performances and selected a winner and runner-up.

The first act of the night was The Southsiders. Next was Casey Catone, an indie pop artist. Catone, a senior Russian major, is a live-looping musician, recording and using playback in real time on stage. They created their own beats and background vocals using a looper pedal at the start of their performance, then played them back and sang over them. 

Catone has been a musician since a very young age, but artists like Ed Sheeran and Tash Sultana inspired them to explore live-looping as a technique.

“I’ve been singing and playing instruments since I was a kid,” Casey said, “I saw Ed’s cover [of] ‘Be My Husband’ by Nina Simone … with his looper and I knew that I had to learn how to loop! I liked the creativity that looping requires, as well as the ability to make a full sound while playing solo.”

Pitt students perform in the Pitt Factor competition in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room on Friday. (Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer)

After Catone, indie rock band Poster Child performed their original songs. Next up was Jittaun, a hip-hop artist who performed a few of her original songs along with her own choreography.

Following Jittaun was indie rock band 9FiftySeven, who performed two original songs. The band’s drummer Aaron Kibler said the band formed in Nordenberg’s Music Living Learning Community.

“Ryan and I actually met on Reddit in a thread for freshmen and we just happened to live on the same floor of Nordenberg,” Kibler said, “Yanny and I connected through a Snapchat group chat for [the] music LLC … I saw Owen hanging out in the Nordenberg lounge with a Led Zeppelin shirt, so naturally, he was added to the band. After a while of jamming pretty regularly, we decided to make things official.”

Kibler described how the band has changed his experience of being a student at Pitt. He said it gave them a space for their creative energy, as well as connecting them with Pittsburgh and the people within it.

“It gives us an outlet to express ourselves and something to look forward to,” Kibler said, “It helped us fall in love with Oakland and Pittsburgh. I know it helped us meet some of our closest friends and made us feel at home on campus.”

After 9FiftySeven was Controlled Chaos, a hip-hop dance ensemble. The group won last spring’s Pitt Factor and opened for Carly Rae Jepsen at Bigelow Bash in 2023. 

Next was another indie rock band, Fractal World, who draws inspiration from bands like Paramore.

The last act was the band JR and the Woodpeckers. At the beginning of the performance, the drummer and guitarists started playing, the main singer waiting backstage for his cue. The audience waited patiently, expecting a performance similar to the previous seven acts. Then, a member with bongos strapped to his waist smeared his bandmates’ faces with red paint. 

The lead singer launched onto the stage and got the crowd on their feet. An older couple nonchalantly danced to the abrasive music, including a cover of Primus. One audience member accepted an invitation to the stage, only to receive a pie in the face. 

In a wide-ranging message to The Pitt News describing their ancient origin story, Renaissance-era inspirations and musical philosophy, JR and the Woodpeckers explained the importance of audience engagement. Under the stage names Sizz, Jod Rig, Speej, Fikle and Lingus, they said the audience is the heart of their band.

“We try to be very interactive. A lot of our inspiration comes from the hours we spend inside different children’s museums,” the band wrote. “Crowd engagement is the core of JR and the Woodpeckers. We love our fans dearly and have a deep understanding of how to make money in this industry.”

After deliberating, the judges named 9FiftySeven as the winner to perform at Bigelow Bash, and JR and the Woodpeckers as the runners-up.

Pitt students perform in the Pitt Factor competition in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room on Friday. (Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer)

Kibler said 9FiftySeven will mostly perform their original songs at Bigelow Bash, possibly with some new music and a cover song.

Though all these acts were so diverse, with each performance showcasing their artistry, there is one thing they have in common — their advice for aspiring musicians. Casey Catone’s advice is that artists shouldn’t be afraid to be different. 

“My advice would be don’t be afraid to get weird,” Catone said. “Something that might seem ‘out there’ could be super cool — you just have to let it happen and not judge yourself.”

JR and the Woodpeckers said to go beyond the norms and challenge yourself.

“Don’t take yes for an answer,” the band wrote. “You’re not challenging yourself or the status quo enough if people aren’t telling you, ‘No you can’t do that,’ or ‘No, if you do that I’m getting security to escort you out of the William Pitt Union.’”

9FiftySeven will open for J.I.D at Bigelow Bash on Sunday, April 7 on Schenley Drive, with music starting at 1 p.m.

About the Contributor
Sanvi Gandikota, Staff Writer
Sanvi Gandikota is a first-year environmental science major and an avid reader and writer. Sanvi has been pursuing her passion of writing since childhood, at first as short stories, and now through TPN. She spent half her childhood in the amazing city of San Francisco, and the other half in the almost as equally stunning state of Virginia. She hopes to one day write a book, so support her now so that you can say you knew her way back when.