WMWC’s Battle of the Bands on Oct 16 was not a success in terms of pure crowd turnout.
At its most packed, maybe one hundred people were spread out on the floor of the Great Hall. As a sad consequence, much of the show lacked that unique energy which only comes from a mass of screaming people all being crammed onto a single dance floor. This is not to say that the Battle of the Bands did not deserve that teeming mass of people, only that it did not obtain it.
The first of the seven acts was Long Division, a band composed of three guitars, a bass, a drum, and a trumpet. Their set was completely instrumental and focused on creating deeply emotional songs through a buildup from slow and simple to faster and more complex.
Their sound was mainly reminiscent of bands like Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed! You Black Emperor, but the trumpet gave them a bit of unique flair, used at the end of many songs as an ingenious substitute for vocals, a force which broke through the ambient, trance-inducingly calm elements of their songs and snapped the audience’s attention back to the stage.
The second act was the only really disappointing one. The mediocre pop-punk band, Arrow to the Sun, didn’t bring anything new to the table whatsoever.
They just had the typical crashing guitars, the same teen-angsty lyrics we’ve all heard before, and the oh-so-typical pretty-boy-with-bad-hair singer that every band just out of high school seems to have nowadays. They did have cool t-shirts for sale though.
The Late Virginia Summers got everything back on track with an amazingly innovative sound characterized by the strange prioritization of instruments. Drum work that would usually be reserved for solos took the lead, with a rhythm guitar in the background providing the grounding for their songs. It was an unorthodox approach, but one that worked amazingly well.
The drummer was hilarious, getting into mock-arguments with the event’s organizers over the amount of time he had left on stage, memorably pointing to his drum set after they had threatened to turn his microphone off and shouting “Guess what? You can’t turn these things off!”
Digging Up Virgins is a band Michael Cera could be proud of. That thought just kept popping into my mind as I watched the band play through their quirky, raucous, but joyous set. The singer was a strange yet appealing character, much like Cera himself, who often began songs by tossing out phrases like, “this song’s about my puppy. She’s the cutest thing in the world.”
Talking about the Great Hall’s chandelier, he said, “I feel like we’re in the first scene of a murder mystery, and you guys [the crowd] are gonna spend the next two hours finding out why this giant thing fell on us.”
Digging up Virgins was a very fun band to listen to, with lyrics one couldn’t help but smile at and a noisy sound which strangely never felt unpleasant on the ears. They were one of my personal favorites, but sadly, did not take any place in the end.
Galaxy Dynamite, from a pure technical standpoint, were in a class above every other act at the Battle. They were an uncomplicated band, with a guitar, a bass, and a drum, and this streamlined approach served them well throughout their set, as it allowed the two amazingly talented string players to trade riffs unimpeded by any other sounds, save of course for the necessary drums.
The music itself was extremely polished surf rock, fast and furious but easy enough to dance to. The players seemed supernaturally-endowed with their musical abilities, often able to go on for six or seven minutes without letting their fingers rest from their relentless shredding. This wasn’t always a blessing, as occasionally the riffs would go on for just too long and leave the crowd somewhat bored.
None of the band members talked throughout the entire set, but a definite sense of humor showed itself when the guitar went into a half-minute jam suspiciously resembling the Empire’s theme song from “Star Wars.” For their impressive efforts, Galaxy Dynamite earned themselves third place.
Fredericksburg’s own masters of the dark, The Hounds, made a feedback-laden appearance, as well. The tone of their set was set by a Styrofoam skull placed on the drum set, as the band transitioned from moody to haunting to burning with restless desire in sardonic, passionate, seamless fashion.
Their use of feedback had mixed results, providing a near-solid wall of harsh noise that complemented their style perfectly when it worked, and nearly caused the explosion of amps and human heads when it didn’t.
The lead guitarist actually had to be absent from the stage for several songs just so the sound system could be re-calibrated after one of the feedback-attacks.
Despite this admittedly major setback, which may have cost The Hounds a place in the Battle, they still played a great show. Where many bands would have seen the incident as a set in ruins, the greatest showmen in Fredericksburg saw the only need to play on, for both the fans and judges, and by the end, no one could even remember that anything went wrong in the first place.
The final act, as well as the title of first place, went to MusicPlayer, a band who blended amazing guitar skills with a capacity for creating sad, yet melodious and even strangely catchy songs. Their singer’s voice carried an air of loss that always seemed at odds with his witty lyrics.
Overall, the band’s sound took a person totally by surprise when contrasted with its onstage appearance, with their amp decorated with the multicolored word “MusicPlayer,” and the singer, whose poncho was made of festive red wool, sported a guitar plastered all over with stickers, two memorable and conflicting examples being a picture of Ernie from Sesame Street and the ominous, bold-letter message “Jesus Is Coming.” They gave a simply beautiful, emotional show, and were absolutely deserving of the Battle’s crown.
These seven bands all had their merits, but sadly, all but three went home with only the meager earnings from merchandise sales at a college-sponsored event. So please, find their profiles on MySpace, and get to know their music a little better. See if they have online stores. Go see The Hounds whenever they play next. And make sure to go to next year’s Battle. Because all these guys deserve it.
[Photo: Long Division opens up the Battle with a great set. Credit: WMWC]