By Danielle Williams
Although many Grinnellians are avid musicians and performers, few have had the chance or challenge of playing for someone as noteworthy as the current Vice President of the United States. On Tuesday, September 19, the Too Many Strings Band, along with G-Tones, had the rare opportunity to perform at Vice President Joe Biden’s event in the Harris Center.
For those unfamiliar with Too Many Strings Band, it is a non-profit acoustic string band that, in general, plays folk or eclectic songs. Their repertoire for the event included folk, blues and traditional songs, like “Blue Highway”, Bob Dylan’s “If I Had a Hammer” and “Strangest Dream.”
Initially, the band got together to play over lunch, and they have since been together for over 15 years. The band features, among others, faculty members Bob Cadmus, Physics, and Sig Barber, German, who were both able to share their opinions on the experience of playing at Biden’s event.
Although it might seem nerve-wracking to perform before the current vice-president’s speech, the band members played without any special preparation.
Barber has played acoustic guitar for the past forty years and, in addition, played bass guitar in the sixties with a German rock band.
“It’s fun for us to make music together, regardless of the size of the audience or the venue,” Barber said. “We have played for many political gatherings over the years—local and national political figures—and I find it gratifying to be able to support our candidates in this way.”
Bob Cadmus confirmed that the band is willing and able to play at many different events without needing time for rehearsal and preparation.
“The songs that we did on Tuesday were ones that we have done many times before,” Cadmus said.
Cadmus never received musical lessons, but after years of practice, he says his playing has improved and he is now comfortable with singing before a crowd.
“We try to practice what we think is the essence of music—people getting together to make music themselves and have a good time,” Cadmus said. “We have played under a wide variety of circumstances and each has its advantages and disadvantages. We were honored to be able to do this event and enjoyed it.”
G-Tones, Grinnell College’s male a cappella group, sang the national anthem. G-Tones member Austin Morris ’15 thought the performance went rather well.
“It was like any other time performing—once you start singing and you know everything, it starts to really flow,” Morris said.
The feedback for both performances was positive, as expected.
“It was interesting to see [the G-Tones’] versatility. Normally they’d beat-box, but I think they did a good job. I’m really proud of them,” said Marissa Cotterell ’15. “Everybody [had] ‘GC Pride’!”
Audience member Emily Boydston ’13 had a similar response to both the Too Many Strings Band and the G-Tones.
“I wasn’t particularly familiar with the band, but I was standing in a group of middle-aged women and they all really liked it… It really fit with the ambiance,” Boydston said. “The G-Tones did a fantastic job and represented the college in the way I wanted it to be represented.”