The Return of SCAMfest: 5C A Cappella Opens Its Doors After Two and a Half Years

Aanji Sin ‘24

On Saturday, April 2, 5C students clambered to Pomona’s Bridges Auditorium to attend the Southern California A cappella Music Festival (SCAMfest), the largest annual a cappella event held at the Claremont Colleges. SCAMfest featured performances by almost all of the a cappella groups on campus, as well as four groups from other universities in Southern California.

This year, SCAMfest was finally able to return to the 5Cs after being delayed for nearly two and a half years since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The festival usually happens during the fall semester, but because of Los Angeles County’s restrictions, off-campus groups could not attend and Fallcappella was put on in its place. Anticipation for SCAMfest has run high ever since, evident in the sold-out audience and the sudden flurry of students searching for tickets just minutes before doors opened.

Planning this year’s SCAMfest around the challenges of COVID-19 proved to be an ambitious effort. The planning committee was spearheaded by the Claremont Shades presidents, Sammy Shrestha PO ’23 and Kiana Harnish ‘23, who had to tackle these trials to organize an event that would live up to its hype. Shrestha themself hadn’t been involved in a cappella at the 5Cs since they watched the last SCAMfest solely as an audience member, and as a result, they had to make plans without any prior experience.

“It was a real bummer for everyone when SCAMfest was canceled last semester, so it was a priority for us to make it happen this semester and do the best we could with it,” said Shrestha. “There was a lot to organize and a lot of things to live up to, but it really felt like we ticked all the boxes that all the SCAMfests before have had.”

The biggest setback that the planning committee encountered was the limit on audience capacity in Bridges Auditorium. Los Angeles County restrictions dictated that the auditorium only could be filled to 40 percent, which did not support the entire population of the 5Cs that wanted to attend. While Shrestha expressed their desire to have been able to open the event to everyone, strict constraints were inevitable and unable to be worked around.

“We had to be very deliberate,” said Shrestha. “There was a lot of difficulty trying to figure out what guidelines we had to follow. Putting the COVID plan together meant looking at LA County’s guidelines, as well as the Claremont guidelines, and the guidelines from the schools that the other groups were coming from, so we spent a long time trying to figure out what would work for everyone.”

SCAMfest’s program boasted six groups from the 5Cs: the Claremont Shades, Blue and White, Moodswing, One Night Stanza, Ninth Street Hooligans, and Midnight Echo. The seventh 5C group, the After School Specials, was unable to perform due to a high count of COVID-19 cases within the group. The four groups from other California universities included The Spokes from UC Davis, Bruin Harmony and The Scattertones both from UCLA, and USC’s the SoCal Vocals.

The Shades kicked off this year’s festival with a powerful rendition of “Road Less Traveled” by Fatai and the smoky, dreamy sounds of “Lavender” by Camille Trust, showing off their outstanding arrangements and tight-knit harmonies.

“Learning the music and learning the choreo was especially fun this year,” Shrestha recalled. “I really loved our arrangements and the songs we performed. We had a lot of rehearsals leading up to the performance, and it felt really gratifying and I think it went really well.”

UC Davis’s group The Spokes came in with pipes blazing, perfectly coordinated in both movement and uniform in their daring black and hot pink ensembles. The all-female-identifying group performed “Kiss My (Uh Oh)” by Anne-Marie and Little Mix, all sass and unabashed girl power, followed by “Dancing with the Devil” by Demi Lovato, complete with jaw-dropping high notes.

Closing out the first half of the program, UCLA’s all-male-identifying a cappella group Bruin Harmony shattered audience expectations with their emotive and potent performance of Madison Ryann Ward’s “Mirror,” followed by the crowd pleaser “Story of my Life” by One Direction. Both of their arrangements featured key changes that left everyone in the audience with goosebumps and earned Bruin Harmony a thundering standing ovation.

Rolling into the second half, Claremont’s Ninth Street Hooligans leaped onto the stage and brought with them their cheery, one-of-a-kind presence. They nailed the complex harmonies of fun’s “Some Nights” in their whimsical rendition, then smoothly transitioned into an infectiously playful performance of “Die Young” by Ke$ha.

Closing out SCAMfest, USC’s premier a cappella group the SoCal Vocals took the stage and mesmerized the crowd with their expert arrangements. From the groovy R&B sounds of “Mixer” by Amber Mark to the haunting heartfeltness of “Stand” by Yebba, the SoCal Vocals performed an unforgettable conclusion to the festival.

“Just watching everything come together, seeing everyone’s performances and all of our hard work pay off was so gratifying,” Shrestha said. “That was definitely the highlight of the entire thing. I was so happy to hear that everyone had a good time afterwards — I know I did.”

Depending on COVID-19 guidelines still in place next semester, SCAMfest is expected to happen during its normal time in the fall.

Image Source: Evan Johnson PO ’22