Swarthmore Concert Series Presents: Altair and Bazmati Vice

As part of Swarthmore College’s Concert Series, the Feb. 17th concert included Altair and Bazmati Vice, bands composed of students from Swarthmore and other schools. Swarthmore students gathered at Olde Club at 9:30 pm, as the final stages of preparation were underway. The audience filed towards the front of the stage, as the band Altair entered the room and took their places by their respective instruments. As Altair began their set, additional students entered, moving their heads and shoulders to the rhythm of the song. After Altair finished their set and the band Bazmati Vice descended the stairs in Olde Club, Swarthmore students flooded the building as Bazmati Vice began to play their set.  They danced for the duration of the set and shouted ‘Encore’ as Bazmati Vice concluded their last song.
Altair, a band of Swarthmore students Nathan Dow ’18, guitar player and lead vocalist, drummer Stefan Laos ’17, and bass guitarist Shruti Pal ’18, first met in Spring 2014 after Dow posted an ad looking for band members on the Reserved Students Digest. The band name stemmed from the group’s playing of alternative music and Laos being an astrophysics major. Shruti then suggested the group to be named  after the star “Altair”. Their first major gig was Swarthmore’s 2015 Spring Battle of the Bands in Upper Tarble. This competition is used to select the performers for Worthstock, an annual Swarthmore outdoor music concert located near the Worth houses.  
“We really got together as a group because of our interests in the same kind of music. Sowe brought in all kinds of covers from bands we knew we love, and that’s how we really built that connection playing with each other,” said Dow.
However, because  Pal is currently studying abroad in England, the bassist in the band is now Jonathan Kat ’20. In 2016, after the Battle of the Bands’ format was changed to the top four bands being selected to perform at Worthstock, Altair was selected. The same day Altair performed at Worthstock, they performed at Bryn Mawr’s annual May Day celebration. They also co-won Bryn Mawr’s 2016 Battle of the Bands with another Swarthmore band called Honey Pickup, and also Bazmati Vice. It was at this Battle of the Bands that Altair first met with Bazmati Vice, which is how they came to perform at the Feb. 17 concert.
Bazmati Vice came together when keyboard and backing vocalist Andrew Szczurek ’16 served the Custom’s Person/Resident Assistant of one of the dorm floors at Haverford and asked for some “musical freshmen” from his hall. In return, he got drummer Chris Gibson ’17, bassist John Kerber ’17, and lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Clayton Brandt ’17. It was later at their first performance as Bazmati Vice at Haverford’s 2014 Oktoberfest that St. Joseph’s University student Chris Jackowski ’17 played with them and then officially joined the band as a guitarist in Spring 2015. The name “Bazmati Vice” was suggested one night over dinner as the band was  playing on the terms basmati rice and “Miami Vice”.
“It’s very memorable and people tend to remember it and so we stuck with it. We play funky music and it’s a funky name,” said Brandt.
Bazmati Vice writes their own music. This process includes Jackowski, Szczurek, and Kerber working on chords and writing lyrics together. They then compare their parts  to see what parts work together, and Gibson adds the drumming.They plan their setlist in terms of songs’ peaks and values: starting with a high energy song and then transitioning to to a medium and then low energy song. They then begin the process again.
“I think what really inspires our style is that we all have varying tastes in music. We have people that are into alternative, funk, blues, metal, and all sorts of varying genres, and we have kind of combined it into what makes Bazmati Vice,” said Gibson.
Olde Club events at Swarthmore were previously once a month, with numerous bands performing with shorter setlists. Altair, having talked last semester with other musicians on campus, suggested that they cut pair down the number of groups, so the bands could have extended set times to show the music they have been working on. They also talked about bringing bands in from outside of the college, such as Bazmati Vice.
“For those that were there, it was a really energized show because we were coming out with some tracks that people might not have heard before, but I think the key to this whole process of bringing outside bands, you could just tell the energy that was there, just by seeing a group they hadn’t seen before. You could tell for the audience it was really refreshing to come to Olde Club and see something fresh like that,” said Dow.
Future plans for Altair include performing on March 31st as part of a pop-up concert series that was set up by band member Kay. This series is based on the idea of advertising a concert every week, but not revealing the band playing or the concert’s location until an hour before the event. There are also events in the works at The Warehouse, Battle of the Bands, Worthstock, and The Barbary in Philadelphia. They hope to finish an album by the time Laos graduates. Bazmati Vice will be the opening act at Ardmore Music Hall, near Haverford College, on Saturday Feb. 25at 8pm with tickets being sold at $13 at the door and $10 online.   

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