For students at Augustana, finding a niche and getting involved through campus clubs, intramurals, fine arts or athletics is one main benefit of being a Viking. But what about the other activities, the ones that also require the time, creativity, and hard work a number of students put into it? Two bands comprised of Augustana students, *Fingers Crossed and The Chris Borchardt Band, have stolen the spotlight, poised to bring a culture of musical diversity back to the Augustana campus.
*Fingers Crossed, consisting of seniors Aaron Vidal and Ryan Marks, junior Anthony Hawkins, and sophomores Berett Steffen and Christian DeJongh, formed early in the fall semester and have been working on their sound ever since.
No single member of *Fingers Crossed can clearly point out when the band first came to be, but “one thing led to another, and finally Christian’s drum set ended up in the basement of Aaron’s house, and we decided to start a band,” bass player Steffen said.
“I came back this year, determined to get a full band together, and the timing was just right,” lead vocalist Vidal said. “Then everything just kind of fell into place.”
The band practices in the basement of Valhallah house, where Vidal lives, and it is working on putting a set list together that will be a blend of both original music and covers of pop songs.
“I guess you could just call our original tunes indie/alternative rock,” Vidal said.
Guitarist Marks asserts that the band has a unique sound.
“We’re an indie/punk/whatever group, and we are planning on performing some covers, although we are simultaneously polishing up some original material Aaron and I have written,” he said.
The five members of *Fingers Crossed come from many diverse musical backgrounds, ranging from a classically trained violinist to a former member of the Rapid City rock band, The Commodities. Drummer DeJongh even took River Dancing classes in his younger years.
“From these classes, I found out that I could keep a beat,” he said. “So I started playing percussion at my local elementary school.”
Vidal said he formed the band “because I love playing music, as cliché as that sounds,” he said. “Music is much more of an emotional thing for me. I write songs so I can filter whatever I’m feeling at that moment, and I want to share them with people. If nothing else, playing this music with friends is just a fun way to spend my evenings.”
The band does not have any gigs set in stone yet, but is planning a show through a UBG Coffeehouse event in the Back Alley next semester.
“I think our goals for this band are summed up in our band name, *Fingers Crossed,” Steffen said. “Like, ‘hopefully this goes somewhere (fingers crossed).’”
“The plan is to garner enough great original material and an arsenal of covers, then record and release some things until we collapse under a flood of super-fans,” Marks added.
Junior Jake Mahowald is the drummer for a different band, the off-campus jazz combo, the Chris Borchardt Band. The Chris Borchardt Band shares its name with the band’s leader, Augustana alumnus Chris Borchardt.
The band, which Mahowald joined a little over two years ago, is comprised of lead saxophonist Chris Borchardt, Borchardt’s dad Russ Borchardt, recent Augustana graduate Matt Garred, high school student Evan Krebs, and Augustana alumnus Matt Tims.
“Our set list includes many popular jazz standards, quite a few jazz renditions of pop songs, some contemporary jazz, and even a few original compositions by Russ,” Mahowald said.
The band has performed at a number of diverse locations throughout the Sioux Falls area, including Jazzfest for the past three years and twice at Lifelight.
“Our most common gig, and my favorite, is on Friday and Saturday nights at Touch of Europe, a cozy restaurant in downtown Sioux Falls,” Mahowald said. “The restaurant features live jazz every weekend, and we play there two or three times a year.”
The band has also booked gigs through the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society that included performances over the summer in downtown Sioux Falls.
“Our diverse repertoire allows us to adapt to many settings and audiences, so we are able to play for many different occasions,” Mahowald said.
Augustana sophomore Ashley Schurr has seen the Chris Borchardt Band perform at Touch of Europe.
“I really enjoyed listening to them,” Schurr said. “They do songs that I know in a jazz style, and it always puts a smile on my face. They are all extremely talented and I look forward to it every time I go.”
Fellow sophomore Jill Johnson said she definitely plans on attending more performances by the Chris Borchardt Band in the future.
“They are all such talented musicians, and I wish them the best of luck in their musical endeavors,” she said.
The band has recorded two CD’s, Influences and Inspirations, and plans on releasing a third album within the next year.
Upcoming gigs for the band include two performances at Touch of Europe on Dec. 13 and 14 from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. both nights.
“It’s a very casual restaurant and performance,” Mahowald said. “But it’s an awesome way to spend a Friday and Saturday night – amazing food, some jazz and a relaxing and fun way to hang out with friends, especially after finals week.”
Both the Chris Borchardt Band and *Fingers Crossed offer a new dimension of entertainment for the Augustana student population to enjoy.