July 12, 2024

Scheduled for the evening of Sept. 15 was a Battle of the Bands competition. What was an energetic, and highly-charged musical adventure in the tight space of Founders Pub, instead turned out to be a look into the musician’s psyche of one talented, quiet young man.

A bespectacled Jacob Bartlett, ’21, was the night’s sole performer, starting with his first song a little after 9 p.m. His hair was tied into a bun atop his head, wearing a loose-fitting t-shirt adorned with an astonished Patrick Star. Looking like a rather soft-spoken individual even as he stood alone on the stage before a sizeable crowd, he held his pink guitar gently in his grasp, the words “Go Canada!” scribbled onto the pickguard.

With a set of five songs followed by a final encore, Bartlett’s performance was a brief, but meaningful insight into the mind of an artist. Bartlett’s sound was intimate; even among a group of strangers one can feel as though the songs were each a personal serenade. With a comfortable vocal range, neither too dramatic nor too unsophisticated, his singing carried from his place slightly to his right of center stage, filling the bar with his carefully-considered sound.

Bartlett’s work on the guitar was pulsing and resonant, his fingers moving effortlessly along the neck of his instrument. Even with only his voice and his guitar to entertain the audience, his music managed to keep from getting stale or bland as the night went on. His guitar artistry was never harsh or uncalculated; its warmth, reminiscent of a clean cup of herbal tea, was both spiritually invigorating and a welcome come-down from a hectic week’s work.

Most notable among his performances was a stripped-down cover of “Free Fallin’,” by Tom Petty. The song began subtly, the easily-recognizable tune stirring from Bartlett’s guitar before he began to sing. His voice was soothing, reminiscent of Petty’s in its reverent timbre, each lyric a testament to the intuitive musical abilities of the night’s lone performer. His guitar playing was minimalist, neither overshadowed by or overpowering his singing.

The night was certainly no Battle of the Bands, the audience was still treated with the music of a rather reserved musician. After a sincere, unspoiled encore, Bartlett left the stage to an uproar of applause, the crowd blown away by his virtuosity.

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