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After 10 student performances — interspersed with jokes, skits, and raffle drawings — bands Beacon Street and Weld 16 emerged victorious in the Battle for Yardfest 2023 in Sanders Theatre on March 2. At Yardfest, Harvard’s annual spring concert in Tercentenary Theatre, these two student bands will be the openers for a professional headliner who has yet to be announced. Audience votes determined one winner while a panel of four judges, including Dean Nekesa C. Straker, chose the other.
Beacon Street is a six-member band that opened the battle with covers of Men at Work’s “Down Under” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” after which they left the stage to chants of their band name. Reunited after a three year hiatus, Beacon Street spins a larger-than-life story of success, split, and comeback in their Battle for Yardfest Instagram biography.
Rock cover band Weld 16’s career began with jam sessions in their namesake freshman dorm. The group performed Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” inspiring a mini mosh pit in the first row. Singer Ethan P. Hsiao ’26 ended their set with a split.
Weld 16, many of whom had little performance experience, found winning surreal.
“I think I can speak for everyone when I say that none of us expected it,” said Hsiao.
“Flabbergasted is the word,” added guitarist Kainoa S. Paul ’26.
Although the College Events Board (CEB) usually reveals the Yardfest headliner during the Battle for Yardfest, it has not announced this year’s yet. Last year, student bands Yard Bops and Charles Revival — both of which competed in this year’s Battle for Yardfest — opened for singer, songwriter, and rapper Swae Lee. Other past headliners include Kiiara, Bazzi, Lil Yachty, and Wale. Along with live festival-style performances, Yardfest includes block parties and a giant cookout.
Other competing acts of the competition included — along with the respective 2023 winners and 2022 defending champions — Into the AM, Williams*, STRYK9, Indigo, Alex Aldrich, and Wesley. Ranging from cover bands to solo singers to a DJ, they elicited enthusiastic applause, cheering, and chanting throughout the evening. Over the course of the night, Isa E. Peña ’24 of Yard Bops belted the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” between two backup dancers, Wesley R. Wang ’26 kept the audience guessing during a pop song mashup, and Williams T. Goldsmith ’26 struck up a call-and-answer: “When I say Gilliams you say Billiams!”
Into the AM guitarist Rachel K. Chau ’23 said of her fellow acts, “[To] hear them and cheer for them, it was super fun not even just on the stage but also backstage.”
Between acts, the two CEB hosts introduced “celebrity guest” Kermit the Frog, voiced by a puppeteer, and the satirical Harvard Whistler’s Society, a group of five who whistled to orchestral backing tracks. Kermit’s staged murder of a Whistler prompted a virtuosic solo whistling elegy.
In the raffle, two audience members won Coop merchandise and one student won a backstage pass to Yardfest.
Reflecting on the battle, the performers shared a sense of fast-paced fun. “Just the feeling of performing onstage with your roommates and some of your best mates is pretty tough to beat,” said Bradley H. Shearer ’26 of Weld 16.
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