Introducing... Your Tree Candidates!

Yesterday was Dollie Day: a marathon of jubilant craziness for the Band Members and a marathon of patience for a dozen or so potential Dollies, all of whom were required to audition in front of the entire, extra-rowdy Band.  (5 of the dancers were chosen as Dollies early this morning.)

And now…. the race for Stanford Tree 2010 has officially begun.

Having received a Facebook message from one Tree Candidate’s Facebook group that this candidate’s audition would take place at 2 pm at the Band Shack, I decided to take a study break and attend.  Little did I know, however, that I would witness not only this single candidate’s “Tree Stunt,” but the 4 other top contenders’ as well!

The tradition is for each Tree Candidate (can we just call them “Saplings”?) to perform one daring, outrageous, and often humorous and/or dangerous stunt in an open, public area on campus – thereby declaring their candidacy.  Common locations include White Plaza and the Band Shack, and in the past, these Tree Stunts have occurred with little or no warning.  Emails aren’t even sent out to the Stanford Band chatlist announcing the stunts; Tree Stunts’ publicity is up to the candidate, though according to one Band member, “they are meant to surprise and awe.”  Saplings often do not perform tasks on the same day as one another, although they do all occur during Tree Week (which admittedly lasts longer than one week.)

In recent years, Saplings began to express the extent of their desires to “Be Tree” by turning Tree Week into a Contest of Pain.  Within the last decade, one Sapling put a live snake down his pants (and another Sapling put one down his throat), one placed leeches on his back in the shape of an “S,” one had a friend shoot her with a real gun (though the Sapling was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time), and one lit his costume on fire.  Since then, Stanford has instituted a few simple safety rules for the Tree Stunts:  for instance, no lighting oneself on fire, no ending up in the hospital, and no getting arresting.

Other Saplings, meanwhile, attempt more humorous tasks.  The 1999 Tree, Evan Meagher ’01, clenched the position of Tree after emerging from a coffin filled with 62 gallons of maple syrup.  Wearing nothing but a loincloth, Meagher then had his friends pelt him with pancakes.

Last year’s Stanford Tree, Jonathan Strange ’11 (also known as “Shu-Fry”), impressed onlookers with a return to comedic Tree Stunts.  Strange’s stunt involved rolling inside a giant metal hamster-ball, constructed by Strange himself.

To my relief, after witnessing an Obstacle Course of Pain in White Plaza last year, none of today’s Tree Stunts involved great danger to the Saplings (with one possible exception, described below.)  The following is a brief account of my day (or okay, 45 min) at the Band Shack.

Pre-Tree Stunt Weirdness:  By 2:05 pm, about 25 students were gathered in front of the Band Shack.  Most of this group comprised of Stanford Band Members, former Dollies, the new Dollies, the current Tree, and supporters of various Saplings.  I stood talking to a Stanford Band friend, directly in front of the Band Shack’s doors, when a peculiar individual caught many of our attention.  A student wearing a bulky, black, poncho-like robe  began making a commotion, walking around in a disoriented fashion and asking where he was.

His face was streaked with translucent, goopy red paint, somewhat resembling very fake-looking blood.   After he had caught a few people’s attention, he tore off his bulky, bag-like outfit to reveal a wife-beater and blue boxers underneath.  None of the onlookers could identify him; he was clearly not in the Band.  As more people began to gather round, the student’s speech became noticeably more deranged; he wouldn’t answer questions as his identity, though he did point woozily to the sky at one point, saying he was “from up there, up in the north!”

After several people guessed various northern locations, I voiced my immediate suspicion: “Cal?”  The student eagerly confirmed – making it obvious that he was partaking in a bizarre Cal-bashing skit.  However, most of the crowd seemed to think that this anonymous student’s skit was more creepy than funny.  He made no other references to Cal, Oski, or his alleged school’s inferiority; his skit appeared to center upon his (very convincing) psychotic behavior.   As my friend and several other Band members remarked, “Normally, we would call the police about a guy like this…. but given that we’re right in front of the Band Shack, this is pretty normal.”  Still, the crowd was not particularly amused – and, as this student never declared his candidacy for Tree, many remained confused and somewhat concerned even after the Tree Stunts were over.

Anyway – on to the official Tree Stunts!

Chris Hadley bathes in red, white, and green
#1:  Chris Hadley ’10, a Gaieties alum, abruptly called attention to the area beside the tennis courts.  Several students ran at Hadley with enormous buckets of ice water, showering him in a frigid bath.  Hadley, dressed in yellow and blue athletic clothes, meanwhile delivered an impassioned monologue detailing how the Bears kidnapped him and dressed him in their colors.  The students then returned with large buckets of red, white, and finally green paint, showering Hadley in the colors of the Cardinal and the Tree.  Hadley completed his monologue with the declaration that these colors, and the Cardinal spirit held within them, have redeemed him.

2:  Ben Cortes ’11, a Stanford Band member, turned the crowd’s attention equally abruptly to the roof of the Band Shack, where Cortes and friends played a rock song – AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.   According to a member of Cortes’ band, the group had been perched on the roof for nearly 2 hours.

3:  Rachel Lindee ’12, a Gaieties alum, next held her performance on the Band Shack’s grassy lawn.  Her troupe of supporters/back-up dancers, all dressed in light green, first built a human pyramid whilst chanting “Lindee for Tree!”  Lindee – or “LindTree,” as she introduces herself in her elaborate and entertaining Facebook group description – then entered and performed a dramatic, spirited rap about the life of the Tree.  I managed to record her performance on camera for your viewing pleasure.


4:  Robbie Zimbroff ’12, a Stanford Band member, undoubtedly had the most elaborate props and planning – as well as the greatest number of incredibly enthusiastic back-up dancers – for his “Wild West”/4th-of-July themed performance.  Zimbroff, dressed as a cowboy, appeared to lead an enormous, homemade covered wagon, led by two students on stick horses.  After parking the wagon, Zimbroff and approximately 18 back-up dancers, most wearing jeans and long-sleeved, plaid Western shirts, commenced a lively, hopping, country-inspired dance.   Following the dance, Zimbroff’s supporters held up an American flag emblazoned with a large green tree, declaring, “Vote for Robbie Z if you love America!”

Robbie Zimbroff and supporters park their wagon and begin to dance
Unfortunately, my camera is having issues with the video of Zimbroff’s performance.  Due to the lag time between his entourage’s entrance and the beginning of their dance performance, I ended up with a pretty lengthy chunk of film; not wanting to miss anything, I kept filming the whole time (which in hindsight,  of course, I shouldn’t have.)  Anyway, if my computer cooperates and lets me upload the video later, I will.

Following Zimbroff’s performance, Stanford’s star quarterback Andrew Luck came out to publicly endorse Zimbroff for Tree.

5:  Kirk Erickson ’10, a Stanford Band member (also known as “Big D”), gave the final and most unexpected announcement of Tree Candidacy.  Whilst everyone lingered about the shady grove in front of the Band Shack, Erickson’s booming voice suddenly emerged from the top of an extraordinarily tall tree.   After a few moments of squinting, the crowd finally spotted Erickson, concealed in his ghillie suit.  Perhaps because it would have been difficult to dance while standing on a 40+ foot high branch, Erickson merely announced his candidacy before swiftly leaping down (though fortunately not in a single bound.)   When asked how long he had been waiting in the tree – as nobody had any clue of his presence – Erickson revealed that he had been perched in his lofty viewing spot for over 3.5 hours.

For video footage of Erickson’s tree-sitting, see below.


And that concluded today’s Tree Stunts.  Soon afterward, all 5 Tree Candidates entered the Band Shack to attend a Tree Infosession.   The bizarre “Cal Fan” may also have entered, though the Band members and Dollies were very wary of him.  They suspected the student may have been a Stanford Daily reporter, as he continuously asked questions about the Stanford Band, the Dollies, and the Tree, but refused to answer questions about himself.  The process by which the new Stanford Tree is chosen is kept a strict secret; according to Band members, only the Band leaders, the current Tree, and possibly the Dollies know how the process works.

The only fact known almost for certain is that the current Tree, Jon Strange, plays the most important role in selecting the new Tree.   But will Strange and Co. favor Andrew Luck’s choice?  Or will they choose “LindTree,” giving the Band a rare female Tree?  (A female Tree has not danced with the Band through all of football and basketball season for a full decade; the last time was in 2000, with Alex Newell ’02.)    ‘

Only time will tell who the new Tree will be – but as usual, this year’s Saplings gave an entertaining show.

** UPDATE **  The Bizarre Cal Imposter, a freshman from Cedro, has now declared his candidacy for Tree, making him officially Sapling #6!

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