A new kind of Homecoming tradition hit Penn this weekend — The Blutt Band Slam. Eight Penn student and alumni musical groups brought their best performances and faced off on College Green, hoping to earn the $1,000 grand prize.
The student performers included Slow Dance Chubby, kechPhrase, Off Track Betting, Quaker Notes, Hippocrates Trio and College sophomore Sarah Lindstedt. Two alumni bands, Wars & Whores and Roadshow Relics, competed in their own division.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for as many people on campus as possible … [to] engage themselves [and] immerse themselves in the musical opportunities at Penn,” Mitchell Blutt, the patron of this event, said.
Off Track Betting kicked off the slam with two original songs, “May Funk” and “Oktoberfest.” The duo group, College senior Joshua Levy on the electric violin and New York University student Elan Bortniker on the six-string banjo, could only rehearse and perform during school breaks. “We overcame adversity,” Bortniker said.
The crowd grew as the event progressed, eventually filling the center of College Green.
“We’ve been preparing for the Band Slam for a few weeks now,” said Maureen Rush, vice president of Public Safety and a member of Roadshow Relics. The band was founded 10 years ago and Rush joined last year.
A 1978 College graduate, 1982 School of Medicine graduate and 1987 Wharton MBA graduate, Blutt always had a love of Penn, but he never had a strong love for music.
But since his time as a student, his passion for music has progressively increased and music today represents an important facet of his family’s life. The Blutt family’s donation sponsors not only this event, but also a variety of musical activities at Penn.
The judges included Blutt, Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor of Rolling Stone Magazine and a lecturer in Penn’s Creative Writing program; and WXPN host Michaela Majoun. DeCurtis and Majoun both agreed that because each performance was so different from the others, it was like “comparing apples to oranges.” Nevertheless, they both enjoyed the diverse sounds and enjoyed judging.
The Band Slam judges based performance scores on criteria including stage presence, originality, musical ability and audience approval.
Blutt announced the winners as his 11-year-old son, Emerson, handed out the cash prizes.
Lindstedt, a singer, songwriter and beat boxer, took home the grand prize. She said her music falls in the acoustic-indie rock genre.
The Hippocrates Trio won the top prize in the student division. The classical piano group, comprised of 2007 College graduate and sixth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student Rena Zheng, 2004 College graduate Alex Pantelyat and Dental School student James Choi, formed this past summer and currently performs for patients and their families in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The group wore their scrubs and white coats for the Slam, embracing their involvement at Penn. They won $500.
The alumni winners were Wars & Whores, comprised of 2002 College graduate Jeff Barg, 2002 College graduate Tamara MacKay Kimler, 2005 College graduate Byron Kho and 2009 School of Social Policy and Practice graduate Miriam White. Outside the competition, the group has written a folk musical composition of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I. They received $250 for their prize.