Stakes at last Friday night’s Giant-sponsored Battle of the Bands ran high with $1,750 in gift cards to Guitar Center, a set at Devil Goat Day and campus dignity on the line.
Split between two stages and limited to a 15-minute set, nine bands dealt out their ear-splitting, crowd-moshing, and sometimes cringe-inducing dirtiest before a packed crowd of voting audience members at the Great Hall.
Giant Co-Chair Claire Copps expressed her enthusiasm about the diverse turnout of bands this year.
“Since we graduated Grave-Robbing Extravaganza and Junk Science last year, we were really worried,” Copps said. “But we ended up with all different kinds of music and were really happy.”
In order to stand out from the competition, bands relied on various methods to connect with an unfamiliar audience.
After offering up a few servings of their own particular brand of Red Hot Chili Pepper-influenced alternative rock, Sweet Williams and the Redeemers ripped into a cover of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” to raucous cheering from the audience.
Reggae-channeling punk rockers Proof by Assertion pulled a similar move, throwing a cover of The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton” into their elbow-bumping mix of punk and ska originals.
Despite their capacity to inspire instantaneous audience-member freak-outs, covers proved to be a risky maneuver.
Junior Nate Winston was particularly unimpressed.
“It reminded me of one those old zombie movies where the people you used to love are resurrected as terrible abominations,” Winston said, regarding the “Guns of Brixton” cover.
Cerca Trova played it safe, opting to toss a bucket of nickel-sized bouncy balls into the crowd instead.
However, nothing stood out quite like No Sunlite for the Media—known as Jug Science for the evening—who abandoned traditional methods of instrumentation and songwriting for toy instruments, lab coats and goggles, and jugs of water.
“Junk Science beat us last year,” said singer Math Thorne. “And they didn’t do anything ‘junk’ or ‘science’ related, so we decided to take it to the next level.”
With a dress code resembling a circus sideshow, a recorder player and free-style raps about rhinos, Jug Science, if not the most creative band of the evening, was undoubtedly the most memorable.
Despite a third place finish, the overly earnest metal-tinged balladry of Cerca Trova felt a little ridiculous on the coattails of Jug Science who, by the way, ended their set by tossing a giant, pink stuffed unicorn into the crowd.
Not to be outdone in earnestness, the two members of Garnet Way who followed up Cerca Trova whimpered their way through several acoustic numbers that blended the more cringe-worthy elements of Jason Mraz and Dashboard Confessional into something that only my 13-year-old sister could have possibly enjoyed.
However, apparently middle-school diary musings like, “I found something I don’t want to lose/ I’ve found myself inside of you” plucked more than a few heartstrings in the crowd who voted them second place.
Thankfully, the Like Whatevers took the stage for the finale and finally struck a refreshing balance between serious songwriting and a sense of humor.
In between Junior Sam Protich’s on-stage banter, The Like Whatevers won votes with infectiously catchy folk-pop sing-a-longs, featuring a unique combination of flute, sax, trumpet and more than a few giant audience handclaps.
Needless to say, the Like Whatevers took first place and a majority of the 150-audience votes cast.
“I think we’ve struck a real chord with a lot of kids on campus,” said Like Whatevers bassist Jeremy Flax. “I felt like our odds of winning were pretty good.”
Jug Science drummer James Waalkes took issue with the voting results.
“I’m pretty sure the boxes were switched,” joked Waalkes. “If they are real men, they will give us that gift card.”
When asked about what the Like Whatevers planned to do with their $1,000 gift card to Guitar Center, Flax said the band was still unsure.
“We’re talking about buying 5,000 guitar picks.”