Typically, when people think of Bloomers their minds don’t initially jump to the ten–person hype crew on the side of the stage who intricately matches their instrumentals to compliment each comedy sketch.
Becca Lambright (C’19)–band director of Bloomers—holds down the fort on stage. From the second she starts playing, Becca shows absolute passion, rocking out left and right and mouthing the lyrics along to the band’s rendition of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love.” And she’s not alone. The saxophonists and violinist in the front—decked out in all–black—sway their instruments and move their bodies to the groove. Becca wears a leather jacket and a sheer black top paired with her bass. She leads the band with a balance of vigor and ease. You can tell she’s a fan favorite from the multiple “Yaaass Becca!” screams from the crowd as the band prepares for their next song.
Coming from extensive backgrounds in mostly classical and jazz music, most members of the band sought a new type of musical experience, which led them to Bloomers. Becca herself played the violin for years prior to arriving at Penn.
Becca tries to unpack the mysterious personality of the band: “It’s really funny. I’d say the band has two personas: the persona we present when we’re performing... it’s all black and the unspoken dress code is black leather denim and a lot of black lace. It’s very sexy. But if you hang out and talk to us, we’re just a bunch of ex–orchestra and band geeks.”
Lauren Sorantino (C'19), chairwoman of Bloomers, says that “there are many other bands on campus... but one thing that sets ours apart is that—other than being all women except for Jake [Diamond–Reivich, (W'20)]—[the band] has an amazing energy that is hard to vocalize.” Lauren is spot on. Energy radiates from of the band, moving the audience to sway and mouth the words alongside them. The band clearly has fun performing, while still hitting their cues and supporting Bloomers’ main acts with deep focus.
Pianist Isabel Zapata (C'19) says, "Performing with the band is more than just playing notes to a drum beat—it’s about the feeling you get when you and all your favorite people are completely in sync, making amazing music together and thinking about nothing else."
To Isabel, the Bloomers band has become her extended family: "I’m an only child, but it doesn’t feel like it around them," she adds.
Ime Etokebe (N'21), echoes Isabel's sentiment: "Everyone in band is a role model to me, even our freshman saxophonist, Allie. I really admire everyone’s talent, dedication, wit, and humor. There’s never a dull rehearsal."
Joining such a prestigious group, Ime admits that she was nervous at first. "I was intimidated when I started rehearsing with everyone, but now I feel like an experienced veteran."
Jake, a drummer and the only male in the band, doesn’t mind being in the minority, and recounts fondly how the band pokes fun at him. They joke about how the girls make Jake, “lift heavy things, but also make [him] carry their emotional baggage,” Becca explains.
Becca believes that it takes a mindful attitude to play in this band. “You have to learn how to not play music for yourself," she says, "You don't get to play your favorite songs just because you're in the band. You have to play music for the people.” When brainstorming for the setlist, the team has to keep the audience in mind—which is why they focus on crafting a balanced setlist with multiple genres.
Becca explains, “We want everyone to have one song that they're like, ‘That was a fucking jam! That was a bop.’” Every member of the band must be selfless in this respect. “At the end of the day, you can play music all you want, but it doesn’t matter if no one wants to listen to you. It’s a partnership between us and the audience,” she adds.
The size of the band, among other things, has also drastically expanded over the past four years that Becca has been at Penn. “Looking at the history of Bloomers, let's say six years ago, we were in a different space, we were selling way fewer tickets, our shows were a lot smaller," she recalls, "so I think we’ve hit our stride this year.”
Now, the group is selling out shows to maximum capacity in sizable auditoriums like the Iron Gate Theatre.
“All these alumni come back and say ‘Holy shit! You’re a big part of the stage, and you guys can sing now,’ and there are all these new things we do that old band members never got to do as musicians. We’ve been able to really push what it means to be a part of this band,” Becca says proudly.
For Lauren, Bloomers has been a highlight of her time in college. “Penn is a very serious place at times, and I know everyone has trouble finding their people, but I think its especially tough if you’re a silly person,” Lauren believes. Bloomers not only gave her a comedy community but a support group. Having a tight–knit female community (plus Jake) is inspiring and necessary, especially since the comedy community is “at large, predominately male,” Lauren regards.
Given the amount of time at Penn they have devoted to Bloomers, both Lauren and Becca are nostalgic given that “Confessions of a Preteen Drama Queen” is their last show. “It’s really weird thinking that next year I’ll come back and instead of being on the stage, I’ll be in the pews," Becca admits.
In the background, band members play "Mamma Mia", for the skit “Mono Mia," while four actresses take the stage to rehearse for their upcoming shows.
Bloomers is not just another club at Penn; it’s a way of life for its members. It’s a group of best friends who love each other, make each other laugh, and want the rest of Penn to share this sentiment. And without the band, Bloomers would be missing the mysterious spunk and tangible energy that they bring to every show.