Scripps’s Vita Nova Lecture Hall was transformed into an intimate concert hall, complete with blankets, hot cider and Donut Man donuts, on Nov. 11 before folk bands Penny Dreadful and Spectre performed for an event hosted by Scripps Live Arts (SLA). The event was originally intended to take place in Scripps’s Margaret Fowler Garden, but according to event organizer Lilly Estenson SC ‘12, (who founded SLA last year and is now co-leader along with Edie Adams SC ’14 and Sara Ferris SC ’14) the new venue inspired their vision.
“We thought acoustic, folk music would be a really good fit, so that is why we asked Penny Dreadful and Spectre to play,” Estenson said. “They make some of the prettiest music we’ve ever heard and are just totally kickass people in general so it was an easy choice.”
Penny Dreadful lead singer and guitarist Rachel Birke described their sound as “goth you can take home to mom.” The band also consists of Pauline Lay, violinist, and Ema Tunermann, who sings as wells as playing banjo, accordion, and the ukulele. Despite their variety of instruments, the group utilized a cappella harmonies throughout their performance, as well as simple whistling and clapping.
“They play dark, almost gothic old-time Americana songs that are really heavy on vocal harmonies and super gorgeous,” Estenson said.
Penny Dreadful performed mostly original songs, which Birke writes and Lay and Tunermann help arrange. They also performed a cover of a song by The Carter Family, who they named as one of their main influences as a band.
Penny Dreadful was named after cheap thriller books sold at the turn of the century that little boys liked to read and their parents would say, “Oh, those penny dreadfuls!” according to Birke. “I just always thought that was cute,” she said.
Spectre, a one-woman music project by Jessica Bloom, was the second set of the night.
“Spectre is also slightly dark and Jessica does a wonderful job of filling up the room with sound and making her songs super interesting and memorable, even though it is just her and her guitar,” Estenson said.
Bloom decided to name her project Spectre because she wrote most of the songs during her time at Mills College, where there were “a lot of spooky things happening,” she said. “Spectre just seemed appropriate because that was the atmosphere in which I wrote the songs,” she added.
Bloom described her song writing as “a meditation process, where you focus and zone into it.” She writes songs quickly, adding guitar in after lyrics, and characterizes most of her songs as depressing.
“I think it’s important to have a persona for each project,” Jessica said. “I like keeping it separated from myself. I don’t feel like I want these songs to represent me as a person, they’re more a way to get across a larger meaning.”
Estenson said she was rather happy with the event considering last-minute difficulties, including the venue change and a Facebook glitch that wouldn’t allow them to send reminders to attendees who had submitted an RSVP.
“We have thrown shows with literally like ten people there and we have thrown shows that are packed, and we’ve learned to be happy regardless because we really believe in the musicians we bring,” Estenson said.
Both Penny Dreadful and Spectre can be found on Facebook and YouTube. SLA completed its events for this semester with a poetry, comedy, and spoken word open mic called LitBlitz open mic Thursday night, but is already planning events for next semester. For more information, visit facebook.com/scrippslivearts.