Student bands ready tribute to Beatles at Skidmore event

Dan Fisher formed his latest band, the Green Mountain Coffee Band, around a Beatles cover. The Skidm

Dan Fisher formed his latest band, the Green Mountain Coffee Band, around a Beatles cover.

The Skidmore College junior first began developing his slow, bluesy take on “Come Together” just before the 10th annual Beatlemore Skidmania Beatles tribute concert at the college last fall. Over the next year, he gathered together three friends to fill out the new project, and he will debut the results at this year’s Beatlemore Skidmania, which takes place on Friday and Saturday at the Arthur Zankel Music Center.

Fisher’s band (named for the coffee cup he was holding when he signed up to audition) is one of 17 student acts to make the cut for this year’s Beatlemore Skidmania. Although that’s fewer than in past years, this is the first year that acts have had to audition for a slot in the concert.

Beatlemore Skidmania

When: 8 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Arthur Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs

How Much: $7, $5 (seniors), $3 (Skidmore students and faculty)

More Info: 580-5321,

This is due in part to the event being organized differently than in past years. The college’s Beatles seminar is essentially a comparative biography class, with the students splitting into teams to discuss various aspects of the Beatles’ career through multiple biographical sources. In 2001, the students in that year’s seminar lobbied Gordon Thompson, the professor of music who teaches the class, to put on a concert to help raise spirits after 9/11.

Holding auditions

In the ensuing years, other classes have put on the annual concert, and Thompson has often organized the event by himself. This year, the Beatles seminar — including Fisher, juniors Xan Goldberg, Jonny Duennebier, Carolyn Bottelier, Martine Hidrobo, and senior Sarah Roscher — is completely in charge for the first time since the first Beatlemore Skidmania in 2001. In an attempt to shorten the concert, the students decided to hold auditions.

“We’ve essentially expanded all the methods taken to plan Beatlemania,” Bottelier said. “Before it was pretty much a sign-up concert; anyone who wanted to could perform, and it was long. We had, what, 24 acts last year?”

The move helped foster a competitive spirit that had been lacking in past years, and also led to more creativity amongst the entrants.

“Part of the goal and the image of the show is to have a diversity of styles,” Goldberg said. “So original takes — we don’t want straight renditions that are just covers. So for example there’s some a cappella groups, there’s some funk bands, there’s some instrumental groups, there’s a bluegrass group, there’s a reggae group, there’s a solo guy with a guitar — you know, a whole range of styles there. In the past, the most successful groups have been original takes as opposed to straight covers.”

Goldberg is one of three seminar students, along with Fisher and Bottelier, who will also be performing in the show. He’s part of the college’s men’s a cappella group, The Bandersnatchers, which will be performing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

“It’s a cool arrangement — it’s sort of like a slower doo-wop version,” Goldberg said. “It’s actually been an arrangement [that’s been] part of the group for a really long time — hey, this is a really nice one, let’s bring it back. It’s an old arrangement, really sort of classic-sounding, and also sort of a new take that the Beatles don’t really have.”

Bottelier will be performing a funky blues rendition of “Eight Days a Week” with MaryLeigh Roohan, of MaryLeigh and the Fauves. “My friend [Roohan] arranged the song — she was just like, ‘Look at this!’ ” Bottelier said.

Originals as tribute

For the students, doing something different with a Beatles song is itself a way to pay tribute to the adventurous spirit of the group.

“There’s a certain charm to the Beatles,” Fisher said. “I feel like — because Mozart would not be cool with you messing with his “Requiem” and stuff. I feel like if John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] heard a reggae version of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ they’d be very into that. They’d be like, that’s cool. I think they’d be proud, almost.”

Each year, Beatlemore Skidmania brings students from all disciplines together to work on the project. The event’s poster and T-shirt were designed by senior Samantha Shneyer as part of the Communications Design II class, taught by Deb Hall, associate professor of art. The students in the class competed with different designs, and the Beatles seminar class chose four finalists and ultimately, the winner. However, one of each design from the four finalists will be raffled off at both of the Beatlemore Skidmania concerts.

The show has become a popular attraction with students each year — pre-sale tickets for both shows have nearly sold out, though roughly 90 tickets are being held for door sales each night. Although two concerts were held last year for the first time, it was a last-minute decision — this year, the two shows are on different days.

“Last year was a marathon,” Thompson said. “Last year we did the sound check in the morning, one show in the afternoon and the second show in the evening, so some of us were there from 7 o’clock in the morning to 11 o’clock at night. This year — we actually planned out this year’s show a year ago.”

Enduring popularity

It’s been more than 40 years since the Beatles broke up, but for the students in the seminar, it’s easy to see why the band still draws new generations of fans.

“It’s something that has been part of — that’s so ingrained in who we are in our culture,” Goldberg said. “It’s already part of the American fabric.”

And the appeal isn’t confined to the U.S. or the Beatles’ native Britain. Hidrobo, who is originally from Ecuador, has been a fan since age 14.

“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14, so I used to play songs from the Beatles — my first song was like, ‘Blackbird’ or something,” Hidrobo said. “I guess it’s just — they’re so international. A lot of people know them, even though they’re not as popular in many other countries, they’re still very well-known.

Categories: Life and Arts

Leave a Reply