Lily Dorstewitz, Contributing Photographer

In Pauli Murray’s elevated courtyard this Saturday, Phil and the Blank — a band of three first years — performed a series of songs to a small crowd of students. 

Gus Brocchini ’24, Ben Finkel ’24 and Peter van Vlaanderen ’24 formed Phil and the Blank during the two-week on-campus quarantine. 

“We try not to make these performances too serious,” Grocchini said. “We don’t set high expectations. It’s nice to do it in this courtyard though, because if seven people come, it feels like a crowd.” 

The group announces their performances through their residential college’s GroupMe chat. They have advertised their shows as Econ 115 “study sessions” and by telling students to “bring a good attitude and a bad friend.”

It was on this same platform — GroupMe — that the band members met a few weeks back. Brocchini and van Vlaanderen, who are suitemates, were practicing together in their common room when Finkel, who lives two floors up, heard them through his window. Finkel asked about the music on the college’s GroupMe chat, which led them to forming a band.

Brocchini says that the name Phil and the Blank is one he had wanted to use for a while. He said that his fellow band members wanted to name the group The Grape Bushes, after the bushes in the elevated courtyard where they practice. Brocchini “vetoed” that name in favor of their current name, which is a pun on the phrase “fill in the blank.”

The band, comprising two guitars and a bass, performs with masks and without drums. Finkel is lead vocalist, van Vlaanderen plays bass and the three members “share guitar duties.” Finkel described Phil and the Blank’s style as a combination of alternative rock and singer-songwriter music. Members said their “different tastes [in music] mesh pretty well” to create new music.

Courtesy of Phil and the Blank

The group’s performances include both original compositions and song covers. Brocchini described Finkel as “a song-writing machine.” At their performance on Saturday, Finkel sang a song about members of the audience, coming up with lyrics on-the-spot.

The group has already created fun performance traditions such as the “one-legged Johnny B. Goode.” During the relevant song, the musicians stand on one leg while playing the guitar and singing. This captivated the audience’s attention on Saturday. 

“Pauli Murray already has such a great community, but when everyone comes to watch them play, it makes it so much tighter,” said Tre Peterson ’24. 

Aaron Weisman ’24 said he looks forward to future performances. “It’s like a break in the day,” Weisman said. “It’s a time to stop doing work and to just enjoy music and other people.”

The group said that even though they are currently busy with academics, they hope to eventually record their compositions.

Alex Ori | alex.ori@yale.edu

Ángela Peréz | angela.perez@yale.edu