Photo by Kimberly Williams (C’17)
By Suzanne Herrin
Act of Congress, a Birmingham-based band, shook up Angel Park with their acoustic “newgrass” at the annual Sewanee AngelFest Festival on September 23. The band travels the world playing solo or with symphony orchestras, including the Sewanee Orchestra and Alabama Symphony Orchestra. They have toured in places such as Thailand, Oman, Palau, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Guitarist Chris Griffin, and pianist Adam Wright, the two founding members, met in college and decided that they wanted to “converge the sounds of progressive bluegrass with softer pop melodies on acoustic instruments.” Later, fiddler and vocalist Connie Skellie and bass player Tim Carroll joined.
The band’s resume includes a wide variety of acts. In addition to playing with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, they have supported country music star Sara Evans and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks. In addition, they have performed for Disney, NPR, and Billboard.
“Our band was inspired by Nickel Creek that turned into the Punch Brothers,” Chris Griffin remarked. “When we got together we valued a high level of musicianship, but I think at this point we just really love playing together and are very thankful for all the experiences we’ve had. We just want to be Christ-like everywhere we go. We have fun playing.”
A few noteworthy songs include “One Will Break,” which comes from their CD Worth Fighting For. The song soothes the soul using beautiful harmonies. Unexpected instruments like trumpets pop up as the bridge starts, and the song feels like the type one would listen to on a rainy afternoon. The lead singer has the kind of voice one could easily fall in love with. The band’s song “Astronaut” from its Dream E.P. differs in style but is so catchy that it easily sticks itself in the brain. “Dream” would work as an introduction to Act of Congress, a song where the sharp, clear notes of the mandolin beautifully contrast with the soothing harmonies.
The band acted as a highlight of the evening, but the other activities the festival offered entertained the community. Animal Harbor, a shelter in Winchester, held a petting zoo table full of baby animals including a possum, snakes, toads, turtles, mealworms, and newborn rats. A seven-year-old girl named Anna loved the event because she “likes playing with all the different animals!” Other activities included face painting, bounce houses, and the classic festival eats: cotton candy and snow cones.