Inside USD

Student’s Band Opens Inaugural Alcala Music Festival

Friday, April 24, 2009

newarchaicPosters throughout the University of San Diego campus for Sunday night’s inaugural Alcala Music Festival spotlight Dashboard Confessional, the event’s headlining act, in big letters.

While the Florida-based alternative rock band has the most national notoriety amongst the five acts scheduled to perform at the outdoor/indoor show sponsored by Associated Students, one of the opening acts has something the rest don’t: a current USD student in the lineup.

Tolan Shaw, a 20-year-old double major in International Relations and Spanish, is lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the Encinitas-based alternative rock band The New Archaic (pictured, Shaw is at far left).

“It a lot of fun and it’s a good opportunity to play in front of all your friends,” Shaw said of performing at USD.

Shaw and bandmates Dillion Casey, Sean Carroll and Joe Harrison will perform during the free outdoor portion of the festival at 5 p.m. in Eagen Plaza, located outside the Jenny Craig Pavilion. The Dimes will also play outside, but tickets must be purchased for the three acts playing inside the JCP — Early States, Get Back Loretta and Dashboard Confessional – starting at 7.

Shaw has done several shows on campus. He did a solo acoustic performance at Aromas on April 18, and The New Archaic played a benefit concert for USD’s STAND organization earlier this year. Shaw’s band will be the featured performer at the Saturday Night at Aromas weekly concert series on May 2.

Playing music and writing songs is more than a hobby for Shaw, who counts RX Bandits singer Matt Embry and R&B/soul singers Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye among his vocal influences.

“What I like most about music is the way it makes people feel and how it brings people together,” he said. “I love singing because you’re able to get that connection with the crowd.”

Regarding song lyrics, which have, at times come to him during his USD classes, he said, “It’s the unlimited aspect of it. You can always create something new. I love writing lyrics. I like that a song can speak to people in different ways.”

Shaw has been serious about his music career since learning to play guitar as a high school freshman. His father, who plays in the band The Rhythm Method, and mother wanted to get their son interested in playing music at a young age.

“I did two years of piano lessons and then two years of guitar lessons,” Shaw said. “I got more into playing music through my dad and by listening to a lot of music.”

Shaw was in two short-lived bands while at San Dieguito Academy but kept playing guitar and writing songs when he went to USD. He was introduced to his current bandmates last year after a friend of the band met Shaw and heard him sing and play guitar at a campfire gathering during a church service trip in Mexico.

“They already had songs when I joined, but they were looking for a singer,” Shaw said. The New Archaic recorded the songs with Shaw and recently released a self-titled EP of four songs with Grammy-nominated engineer/producer Steve Churchyard.

The project excites Shaw about the potential of The New Archaic, which has played gigs at the Belly Up in Solana Beach and The Casbah in downtown San Diego. The band has taken the usual marketing steps – song samples can be heard on their page, they have a Facebook fan page and a band website is under construction – and the goal is to keep playing shows while seeking a deal with a record label.

What about school? Shaw, who is taking 16 units this semester, said he is on track to graduate in 2011. In the meantime, he has his plans for the summer.

“I’ll work a day job, and we’ll try to get as many gigs as we can,” he said.

Spoken like an educated rock star.

– Ryan T. Blystone

Tickets for the indoor portion of the Alcala Music Festival are available at the Hahn University Center box office and the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Ticket prices are $10 for undergraduate students, $20 for graduate students, faculty and alumni, and $25 for the general public. In addition to the concert, USD student organizations and San Diego-area charities will be on site to promote their causes and clubs.

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