I love discovering a battle of the bands. As an underappreciated music blogger, I find a lot of great music simply because I’ll go and listen. Sometimes there are terrible bands surrounding the diamonds, but Auburn UPC’s recent battle had a stacked line-up that provided a wildly entertaining evening. Their excellent choice of emcee in Brandon Crocker also helped create a splendid evening (no lame jokes! yes! yes! yes!). All six bands were worth noting, so I’m splitting coverage of Friday’s event into two days.
Just Marked played some modern acoustic pop, heavy on the falsetto. The band played together well, both on originals and on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” I’m not the biggest fan of cajon, but the performance was solid.
Bottle Up and Explode, who I fell in love with a couple weeks ago at Eighth and Rail, were a pleasant surprise in the second slot. They brought their Bishop Allen/Strokes-ian indie-rock/indie-pop to the stage with energy. (The lead guitarist got especially into it.) It’s just really, really fun to watch Bottle Up play — you get to sing along, shimmy a bit and smile tons.
The earthy, rooted sound of Gypsies With Knives graced my ears next. With powerful, clear vocals and great instrumental interplay, the band creates a neat mix between jam-band, southern and shanty rock.
When people hear the phrase “The Battle of the Bands” all sorts of images pop into a person’s head. I think those of us a little older may think back to high school going to support our friends in garage bands trying to break the chains of mediocrity. If we are honest sometimes we HOPED for mediocrity from our friend’s bands.
Recently I attended a Battle of the Bands showcase put on by the Tulsa World at the Cain’s Ballroom. This particular showcase was for bands that were still in high school. These bands were chosen by the writers in The Satellite, which is a student geared part of the paper.
As you can imagine the audience was predominantly high school kids and forty-somethings there to watch their kid perform. The format for this showcase was simple. Each band was given fifteen minutes to play as hard as they could. To keep set up time to a minimum each band used the same drum set and roadies hired by the Cain’s Ballroom. The bands represented were Big Sleep, Black Sheep Drive, Juneaux, Phaethon, The Twenties, The Dull Drums, and Here is There.
Each band that took the stage wanted to win over the judges because the prizes were quite impressive. The winning band received a very nice prize package that included a 1500 dollar Said Music Gift Certificate, 1000 copies of a single that they get to record, a bass amp, a guitar, 1000 blank CD’s and labels, and a slot to compete in the John Lennon songwriting contest. Anyone can understand why this is a big deal.
The judges were local celebrities among Tulsa’s music scene. Davit Sauders, who has been a staple in the Tulsa music scene for a long time (I call him IKON because of a club he used to own in the 90’s), MC’d the show and actually did a great job amping up the crowd. When I saw his long silver hair and his kilt I was a little scared that the father of a band member had had one too many and was going to scream that his son’s band ruled or something. But Sauders introduced the judges and the bands, went over a few rules, then turned the show over to the bands.
As each band took the stage Sauders came out to introduce them and their school, as well as rile the crowd a little. After each band’s fifteen minute set he came back out, pulled another cheer out of the audience, and then would remind everyone to vote for who they liked best.
The only exception was a not so friendly reminder before Phaethon took the stage to not mosh and/or crowd surf.
The bands knew their audience, and their loose and carefree sets reflected it. The best compliment I could give is that the worst band I heard that night was better than the best high school band in my high school. I went to the largest high school in the state.
The band that caught me off guard and surprised me the most was Juneaux. Their set was the most diverse in my opinion and though they showed their age, they also showed a degree of maturity as well.
The night went off without a hitch but for one glaring problem. There was a horrible short in a cord that led to the amps on the right side of the stage. So whoever ended up on that part of the stage was at a real disadvantage. This was most noticeable during the performances of The Twenties and The Dull Drums but I don’t think this issue affected the outcome.
The winner of the Battle of the Bands was Here is There. Second place went to the Twenties for the second year in a row.
One clever spin that this battle had was fan voting. While the judges picked who they believed to be the most talented the crowd got to pick their favorite through quickly tallied fan ballot voting. The winner of this award was Big Sleep and they received a $500 Saied’s gift card.
The organizers of this contest did a stellar job promoting and picking high quality competitors. At one point in the night there were rumblings about students being kept out because the concert had sold out. That’s when you know as a promoter you’ve done your job.
This Battle of the Bands showcase was easily the most organized I have been to and it appears that this will continue to be a staple in the Tulsa area and something for high school bands to aspire to.
– Sean Payne