A red-suited, funk-filled mass of energy and soul — commonly referred to as Mayer [email protected]@http://mayerhawthorne.com/#[email protected]@ — headlined at the 45th-annual Willamette Valley Music Festival May [email protected]@http://musicfest.uoregon.edu/@@. Hawthorne performed to a nearly full EMU Ballroom Saturday night, marking the end of the festival.

The festival began at noon with three different venues spread across campus to accommodate 22 bands. Admission was free thanks to sponsors, grants and funding from the Cultural Forum, which organized the event.

“The Cultural Forum’s purpose is to bring culture, whether that be music, art, performing arts, comedy, anything like that. We are here to facilitate events and respond to what students are interested in,” festival coordinator Sarah Onyschuk [email protected]@http://www.registerguard.com/web/entertainment/27978431-41/music-festival-stage-students-onyschuk.html.csp@@

In addition to meeting student interests, the festival gives up-and-coming artists a chance to perform their music.

Willamette University senior Slater Smith opened the festival at noon in the EMU Ballroom. Smith’s one-man show showcased his personal fusion of folk and rock, which derives influence from the likes of Josh Ritter and Jack [email protected]@[email protected]@

“I want to write folk and rock songs that are meaningful,” Smith said. “Ever since fall semester, I’ve been going to school half-time, playing music — working from the bottom up.”

Another notable appearance was local favorite, Sol [email protected]@http://www.solseedmusic.com/index/Sol_Seed_Music.html@@. The six-member band describes its music as “psychedelic reggae rock” and its unique sound was a hit among the dancing audience.

“We are trying to tap into the college scene in Eugene. It’s great to support local events,” bassist Benny Pezzano [email protected]@http://eugenedailynews.com/2012/02/15/a-conversation-with-benny-pezzano-of-sol-seed/@@

The festival came to a close with a performance by Grass [email protected]@http://grasswidow.org/blog.php@@ before Hawthorne took the stage. The San Francisco-based band made a second appearance in Eugene since its show at the Wandering Goat Coffee [email protected]@http://www.wanderinggoat.com/@@ four years ago.

“It was a great performance and a great event, and I saw some kids dancing in the back. It’s always a success when you see some people dancing,” guitarist Raven Mahon [email protected]@http://www.blitzgigs.de/tag/raven-mahon/@@

Throughout the day, attendance was lower than expected. The EMU ballroom, with a capacity of 950, averaged a crowd of about 50 people. This was largely because the main stage moved from Memorial Lawn to the indoor EMU Ballroom due to inclement weather.

Despite this small setback, crowds poured in to see Hawthorne perform in the evening. Hawthorne slid on stage in his Nike Air Jordans and signature red suit and performed to a crowd of mostly University students. Toward the end of the night, the excitement of the crowd called Hawthorne and his band back on stage for an encore.

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