When asked what he hoped to gain from participating in the Battle of the Bands at the Social Planning and Events Committee’s first Fall Festival this Saturday, College sophomore and member of the band, Redheads Are Trouble, Drew Samoyedny joked, “We want to be sex icons.”
Though the official prize for the winning band is a headline spot in the Quad for Spring Fling next April, the battling musicians anticipate many other rewards, ranging from allowing students to “hear good music” to appeasing “friends who want to hear us but won’t come out to MarBar because they don’t have good fake IDs.”
In fact, the spot for Fling seems low on the list of motivations for the bands, though they still consider it a worthy honor.
The participating groups are Redheads Are Trouble, Pan-Am, Mask and Wig, Sex Panther, The Young Broke Romantics, Penn Rock and Stone Kansas.
On-Stage Chairman and College senior Nick Pangallo said that assembling the bands wasn’t so much challenging as worrisome, for until the last day submissions were open, the committee members were unsure that there would be enough bands who wanted to participate.
However, there was a rush of applications for the Battle on the final due date, and ultimately twice as many bands applied as could play.
The other problem with organization of the event was finding a way to contact bands on Penn’s campus, explained Pangallo.
“There are tons and tons of great student bands, but there’s no central organizing body for [them],” he said.
To reach out, he organized e-mails to student government branches, created a Facebook group and contacted blogs such as 34th Street’s Under the Button and Tripping Franklins.
“Given the varied submissions, I feel like we hit a bigger portion of the student body than we were expecting,” he said.
Though applicants ranged from disc jockeys to jazz bands, Pangallo said organizers “wanted to keep it to a traditional battle of the bands mode.”
The bands themselves classify their music ranging from musical improve to funk, with most referencing rock influences. Most, in fact, highlight their abilities to master any kind of music.
“We’ll take pop songs and put our own spin on it,” said Gabe Donnay, College sophomore and member of Sex Panther.
“We’ll tell [the audience] to pick a band or genre and we’ll try to hit it,” said College junior Dan Higgins, a member of the Young Broke Romantics.
Ben Plotnick, an Engineering junior and bassist and back-up vocal singer for Stone Kansas, said his group, which he generally classified as classic rock, has gone so far as to play Miley Cyrus when it was requested one evening at Smokey Joe’s.
These bands are diverse in more than just their goals for the Battle and types of music they play. Participants differ in age, school, time spent playing together — and even notoriety on campus.
Arguably, the most well-known of the participating groups is the Mask and Wig Band. They already have a prime performance spot during Spring Fling — they are traditionally the last act on Saturday night — and are generally acknowledged as talented musicians around campus.
College and Wharton junior Charles Lynch said they are participating because “it’s always fun to play music, we rarely turn down a chance to play.”
Moreover, Mask and Wig has ties to several of the other participating bands. Three members of Mask and Wig are also in Sex Panther and will be participating with both, and Pan Am’s Steven Lundy was in Mask and Wig his freshman year.
“It’s more chance to win, it’s great,” said College sophomore and band member of both Mask and Wig and Sex Panther Russell Kotch. “I’m hedging my bets.”
Sex Panther and Stone Kansas have both already played multiple events on campus — the former slots at Panda Bar, above Marathon Grill, most Wednesday nights, while the latter played at Smokey Joe’s every Sunday last semester.
The Young Broke Romantics have held several small concerts at house parties or while pre-gaming, but in hopes of increasing their visibility before the concert, will be performing on Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Locust Walk. They are a musical improvisation group, and as such, personalize each performance according to their spectators and their musical tastes.
Other bands, like Penn Rock and Redheads Are Trouble, are newly formed or have very recently added members.
Penn Rock is comprised of all freshmen and was the brainchild of Wharton freshman Vandit Shah. He created a Facebook group last summer to recruit fellow freshman that would be interested in playing together. There are 71 members of the group, but only five students who will be playing together on Saturday.
“It’s not that were participating to win,” said Shah. “The fact that we’ve just been playing for a couple of weeks and we’ve got a chance to play is big enough.”
On going up against far more experienced bands, fellow Penn Rock member and College freshman Sarah Van Sciver said, “It always helps to be the new kid on the block. Or I’m hoping it does.”
While Redheads are Trouble members Christian Albornoz, a college sophomore, and Samoyedny, have been playing together for a number of years, with their recent additions of Mike Baldassari, Daniel Felsenthal and Charley Ma, the whole group has only been playing together for about a week.
Time and space to practice has proved a challenge for most of the groups.
“Unless you’re a really established band and have your own practice space… you’re kind of screwed,” said Samoyedny.
Equipment must be dragged around to a variety of practice rooms, which are poorly stocked and not sound proofed, explained the group.
Stone Kansas and Pan Am each have multiple members who do not attend Penn or even live in Philadelphia. Many are arriving Friday evening or Saturday morning, reducing practice time available before the contest.
Despite these setbacks however, each band admitted that rather than nervous, they are more excited — for the chance to be seen by fellow students, to spread their name around campus and to play music.
“We just love playing, first and foremost,” said Plotnick.