Ben Sollee closes out residence with concert in Guerry Auditorium

sectionheadertemplateBy Jackson Campbell, Contributing Writer

In an impressive show in Guerry Auditorium, Ben Sollee concluded his residency at Sewanee with the help of his band Kentucky Native. The quintet played songs from their most recent album Kentucky Native as well as a concluding cover of Cat Stevens’s Wild World, after which the crowd responded by starting an impromptu dance party at the foot of the Guerry stage, something that supposedly last occurred six years ago at the Beatles Tribute Show in Guerry Auditorium.

Sollee and percussionist Jordan Ellis had been on campus the day before, teaching a private MasterClass, conducting an open discussion about environmental activism through music, and sitting in on a few 200 level music courses.

On the day of the concert, they were joined by Julian Pinelli on fiddle, Bennett Sullivan on banjo, and bassist Alex Browne to complete the band. After a few quick hugs and a dinner at McClurg, the band got right to work with a sound check. Members like Pinelli had flown all the way from Boston, where he had recently concluded his education at Berklee School of Music, to perform in this one event.  

During the show, Sollee proved that being the frontman does not mean solely filling the spotlight but provides an opportunity to show the musical prowess of the supporting members. Each member was given an opportunity to improvise a solo while the rest of the band joined the audience and appreciated their music.

This appreciation for others encapsulated Sollee’s drive to connect to those around him through his music and activism. It is fairly common to only give the supporting band members a passing introduction and then allow them to sit on the side as the bandleader runs the show.

Sollee seemingly runs the show as a mediator between crowd and band, but by no means acts as if he is the best musician on the stage. After the conclusion of the event, Julian even came out and openly said that Sollee and Ellis inspire him greatly.

Once everyone had left and the cars were all packed, Sollee, Ellis, and Pinelli drove to Nashville to catch a flight to Dallas, where Sollee was presenting a film on his and Ellis’s “Ditch the Van” bike tours. To the disappointment of several Greenhouse members, the band couldn’t enjoy an after-show party, but Sewanee undoubtedly left a lasting impression on them. Ellis even described Sewanee as “a place that I would want my kid to go to college.”