The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday May 26th

Street performer brings folk tunes to Franklin

With her violin in hand, musician Alicia Best brought the rich, haunting tones of Appalachian folk ballads to Franklin Street for the first time on Saturday night.

“It’s a North Carolina tradition that isn’t here as much, and it’s something I know and have studied and wanted to have an opportunity to share,” Best said.

Saturday night marked Best’s third time street performing. She “began” in Asheville one day when she needed gas money to drive home to Chapel Hill.

She said that instance allowed her to finally overcome her fears of playing for a street audience.

“I really enjoy the interactions,” Best said. “My second day in Asheville, a woman stopped and pushed her baby to sleep while I was singing.”

Best said her folk music is received differently in Chapel Hill than in Asheville, where much of her audience has Appalachian folk roots.

“It’s interesting to be singing to boys in full-on UNC regalia,” Best said. “Maybe they’ve never heard someone sing this way before.”

Best, originally from Durham, studied performing arts at Bennington College in Vermont and began playing violin when she was three.

She found her passion for Appalachian folk ballads while participating in contra dancing — a partnered folk dance — growing up.

“I loved both the whimsy and gruesome parts,” Best said of the traditional ballads, many of which concern unrequited love and murder.

“I take a song that I hear and I make it my own, either by altering the lyrics or melody and finding a way that I enjoy to sing it.”

UNC freshmen Diana Ford and Rachel Woolridge said they enjoy street performers in Chapel Hill and think it sets the town apart.

“I personally love it,” Ford said. “I’m from suburbia, so I don’t get that as much.”

Franklin Street is often a stage for local musicians, with performers dotting the street on all nights of the week.

“I like that you can find a different kind of music on every block,” Woolridge said.

Best, who also sings in the band Bevel Summers, said she hopes to continue performing in Chapel Hill.

“A lot of people are just really busy and going wherever they want to go,” Best said. “I try to not be a nuisance but try to add something into the busyness.”

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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