Battle of the Bands

Instead of being forced to contain an infectiously energetic vibe in the unusually crowded and hot Kemper Auditorium, this year’s Battle of the Bands audience was able to listen to talented individuals showcase their abilities in a far more spacious venue—the lawn in front of Samuel Phillips Hall. For the very first time in the history Battle of the Bands, the judges, Lucy Maguire ’08, Tantum Collins ’08 and Ben Laccetti ’08, switched from the 10 rating scale to the 8.5 Mustache System. Collins said, “[The Mustache System] is a derivative of an exponential, inverse logarithmic, geometric scale that was born fully formed in the bizarre depths of Ben’s mind.” On the other hand, Maguire said, “The overall quality averaged out to very mediocre, but there were some very good performances in there, along with all the crap. Most of the individual musicians did something I was impressed by at some point. And [Phil Hofer ’10] will testify that for me to say something’s pretty good is a huge compliment.” Five bands competed for the victory. No bands were cut before the show because Hofer decided not to cut any bands if there were less than eight bands trying out. The night began with The Keys, consisting of Avery Stone ’10, Lily Shaffer ’10, Ellie DiBerardino ’09 and Tessa Pompa ’08, singing an original piece written by Stone titled “Boston on the Radio.” Stone said, “It was a little nerve-wracking at first because we didn’t know how people were going to react to us. I was also really nervous about performing a song I’d written because again, you never know how anyone’s going to react to it. But pretty much everyone seemed to enjoy it–it’s always fun to look out at the audience and see people smiling.” After their performance, Maguire compared Shaffer’s voice to that of “Alvin and the Chipmunks on fast forward” despite the fact that she “looked human,” but she was pleasantly surprised when they came back for the second round. Maguire said, “When Lily Shaffer’s band changed their name to Lily and the Chipmunks, it showed me they hadn’t taken my chipmunk comment too seriously – I was really worried they were going to be upset about that one. Ironically, I was told afterwards that I sounded pretty high-pitched myself when I was talking into the mic.” Next, a freshman band made their debut. They hadn’t decided on a name for their band yet, so when Maguire referred to each member of the band as “Freshman Singer” or “Freshman Drummer,” Peter Nelson ’11 (the “Freshman Singer”) said, “I think we’re going to stick with The Freshmen.” With only five months of practice under their belt, The Freshmen faced certain problems that other bands did not; they were put in the same position that 7 Layer was in last year. Nelson said, “Being the only freshmen band obviously presented its challenges. We were the least experienced… we didn’t quite know what to expect. But [other band members] Zach Fine ’11 [drummer], Teddy Drake ’11 [lead guitar] and Chris Calkins ’11 [rhythm guitar] were all on Matt Renner’s ’10 [lead guitar and backup vocals of 7 Layer] baseball team and know him fairly well, so he gave us some advice and told us what to expect. And I think that helped us a lot.” Following the newly coined Junior band, a veteran band, The Basin City Police Dept (the same band from last year with a different name), consisting of Moses Kim ’09, Eli Howe ’09, Kevin Ofori ’09 and Kyle Ofori ’09 came on stage and introduced themselves as “Upper drummer,” “Upper Bassist,” etc. The judges were not too impressed with “The Uppers.” Laccetti said that they were “standing like fish on stage,” and Maguire commented on pitch and together-ness issues. However, the band is not all to blame—they had some technical difficulties. This year, they were eliminated after the first round. Following up The Basin City Police Dept was the act most audience members had been waiting for. Back by popular demand, 7 Layer Crunch Wrap Supreme was ready to take on the competition. This time, they were not about to be “robbed of victory,” as Laccetti said when delivering the final verdict of this year’s Battle of the Bands champions. As die-hard 7 Layer fans remember, despite the violent flailing of Renner’s “godly hair,” as the judges put it last year, the band lost in a close competition to the senior-stacked Tuesday Morning Fun Club. Renner (lead guitarist), learned from last year’s experience, reflected on mistakes in their song lineup. “Last year our song choice was a little out of place. We should’ve saved our best song for last instead of playing the song we were most comfortable with first. We didn’t really know that we would make it to finals so by the time we made it to the third round, it was either Aerials or another song we didn’t know very well,” said Renner. This year, with more confidence, 7 Layer decided to play their best song in the third and final round. This final song earned not only the coveted full 8.5 mustaches from Lacetti, but also Maguire’s approval. “[One of my favorite parts of the night was] the last song by the Crunchy Supreme-Os, because Duncan was pretty in tune and I was so proud of him. That song was really quite decent.” Despite 7 Layer’s intense head-banging, the judges still thought the band lacked some energy after round one. This caused Ducan Crystal ’10 (lead singer) to pull out Michael Jackson-esque moves for their cover of a cover of the Michael Jackson hit, “Smooth Criminal,” for the second round. Responding to Crystal’s dance moves, Collins said, “I can’t tell if you are even a mortal!” An unexpected twist occured when a band called Warm, consisting of Henry Metro ’10, Melissa Ferrari ’10, Jimmy Brenner ’10, Ram Narayan ’10 and Mike Bernieri ’10, came onstage. Narayan and Bernieri were added to the band to dance in the background and served as “ambience” throughout the piece. The piece can be described as an unexpected combination of shrieks and instruments. Bijan Torabi ’10 said, “I really liked Henry Metro’s [’10] band. They hadn’t really rehearsed, but they went up there and presented some really cool, experimental music. Henry has a really good ear—his shrieks were very in tune with his guitar work, and the synth part was a nice break in the song. I wasn’t really a huge fan of the ‘ambiance,’ but overall, I thought the act was very risky and well- executed.” Collins later said, “In terms of pure shock value, I very much enjoyed Henry Metro’s first song.” Unfortunately, Metro’s band did not make it past the first round. Bernieri said, “I think that it is a shame that we didn’t win the battle of the bands according to the judges, but we know that in the in the eyes and hearts of the audience we were number one. From here, we are going to continue to try to book gigs and move on with the winner’s mentality that got us where we are today.” Maguire’s harsh criticism, though ill received, had a purpose. Collins said, “I think that she contributed a very interesting dynamic, and, as by far the most musically-knowledgeable judge, she was the only one able to critique the bands beyond the most basic level.” Collins said, “I think that [tonight] was terrific. We had a great assortment of different sounds and styles, and I think that it was all very entertaining…This was, in my opinion, the best Battle of the Bands in my time here. Holding it outside definitely contributed to the fantastic atmosphere, as did the unique combination of groups.”