Penny and the Mandimes emerged victorious from music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha’s annual fundraiser “Battle of the Bands” last week. The event, which took place at 55 Below on Nov. 23, also featured student bands Cat Stevens Conversion, Johnny Cole Murdock, The 72, Rodger Scotch and the Highballs, and Great White North.
Claire Calvert, frontwoman of Penny and the Mandimes, and her bandmates seniors Patrick Votel, Adam Buchmann, Zane Mabry and juniors Dominic Bulger and Jacob Gieselman have been playing together for two years.
“As the years have gone on, I’ve become really good friends with the guys,” Calvert said. “I’m so comfortable being onstage with them now, and we know that we have each others’ backs.”
Calvert said that being comfortable onstage allowed her to focus on entertaining the audience.
“People want to be entertained and they want to be involved in the performance,” Calvert said. “Because I’m not playing an instrument, the people in the audience are my focus. I want them to have the same joyful and fun experience that I’m having onstage.”
According to Calvert, classic rock is her band’s favorite genre.
“The boys love it because it has a lot of prominent guitar and the instrumentals are great,” she said. “But we try to integrate pop into our dynamic as well because it’s really fun, and sometimes we’ll throw in a weird song, too.”
This performance’s weird song was the punk version of “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” from VeggieTales, which inspired Votel to don a pirate hat during the performance.
Rodger Scotch and the Highballs also stood out at Battle of the Bands, thanks in part to senior Brian Freimuth’s guitar solos.
According to Freimuth, his favorite song to play was “Come Together” by The Beatles.
“The beginning of that solo is like three notes, but if everyone’s hyped, it’s like those are the coolest three notes,’” he said. “Rock is all theatre. It’s stage presence and energy.”
Like Penny and the Mandimes, Freimuth said Rodger Scotch and the Highballs gravitates towards certain genres of music.
“We like to play late ’60s and early ’70s rock, and modern music that kind of sounds like it,” Freimuth said. “We do boomer rock like Led Zeppelin, because the boomers had better music than we do. I think it’s because they had better parties.”
Freimuth said that he appreciates Hillsdale’s music scene because there is little division between different kinds of musicians.
“The best part about the off-campus music scene is that there aren’t any barriers between classically trained musicians, rock people, jazz people, people who like to play acoustic — everyone likes to come together and share their skills,” he said.
However, he added that he’d like to see more people getting involved.
“The one area of improvement that we need is more house shows, more concerts, more people forming bands,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are fantastic musicians who are like ‘Oh, I don’t have time, I need to study for my test.’”
Ethan Greb ’19 said Battle of the Bands is one of his favorite events of the year.
“You see so much raw talent from the students,” he said. “As a graduate, it’s always great to see new bands form and play music. The last two years, I was a drummer for the band The Village Idiots, and I miss the adrenaline rush of playing in front of a crowd. The energy at this event is always so high.”
According to Greb, the music scene at Hillsdale is alive and well. For the sake of floors everywhere, Battle of the Bands should probably stick to underground venues in the future.