The room was split. As the three winners of the preliminary round of the Boston College Battle of the Bands were announced Friday night, the crowd was divided between restrained celebration and quiet defeat. Supporters of the three bands that did not make it to the next round filed out of the Vanderslice Cabaret room quickly, disappointed, some looking exhausted. For members of Juice, Seaver’s Express, and Bobnoxious & the Master Craftsmen, however-the evening’s three winning acts-the occasion was momentous.
Sean Seaver, A&S ’16, of Seaver’s Express, high-fived fans as they walked out, and other winners offered kind words to the three bands who had just been announced as leaving the running. The competition was hotly contested, and while the winners all moved on deservingly, any of the six acts could have made it to the finals in other years.
Seaver’s Express and Juice are both newcomers to the Battle of the Bands circuit, as neither group even existed to compete in last year’s event. Bobnoxious & the Master Craftsmen made it to the second round in 2013, ultimately losing out to Lucid Soul. This combination of compelling new acts and the confidence of veteran Bobnoxious made it a tough evening for the night’s other three contestants-Free Alley, Times New Roman, and the Mints. The winners will face off Thursday, April 24 at Arts Fest, competing for the chance to perform at this year’s Modstock-last year’s winner Lucid Soul was given the opportunity to open for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
Lou Wilson and Ceara O’Sullivan, of sketch comedy group My Mother’s Fleabag and both A&S ’14, hosted Friday’s competition. Before announcing the overall winners, they awarded The Mints the “most kissable” award and Times New Roman “most spoonable”-these were bittersweet distinctions, clueing in the two acts that they probably would not be advancing.
The show ran approximately two hours, with Juice opening.
Frontmen Kamau Burton, A&S ’17, and Christian Rougeau, A&S ’17, made Juice one of the more unique acts to step up to the Battle of the Bands stage in recent memory. Rougeau, currently working on a double degree from Boston College and Berklee College of Music, is a classically trained violinist. Together with guitarist and vocalist Burton, and the three other members of the five-piece band, Rougeau brought classic violin to a neo-soul sound, merging elements of soul, R&B, hip-hop, and alternative rock. Trading off verses, Burton and Rougeau both contributed vocally, bringing traditional rock vocals together with rap elements.
As an opening act, Juice was a distinct threat to the night’s following five acts. The band’s set was both ambitious and acutely executed. Juice had no trouble energizing the crowd, working up such an aggressive sound that Rougeau’s bow began to fray. This hair-splitting intensity carried through the 11-minute set.
2. Free Alley (eliminated)
The folk-rockers of Free Alley needed no introduction, or at least they accepted none. Soon after stepping up to the stage for their sound check, the members of the band sounded off, as hosts Wilson and O’Sullivan looked on confusedly from the side of the stage. “I was supposed to do an introduction, but they did it them damn selves,” Wilson would later joke.
Free Alley worked with tight harmonies, emulating the aesthetic of alternative acts like Fleet Foxes. Transitioning quickly from this calm sound to loud, shouting vocals, the band showed a fair bit of range its set. The more understated parts of the performance especially stood out. While the loud choruses could get a bit messy, Free Alley brought it back together with these smartly crafted interludes.
3. Seaver’s Express
The sound of Seaver’s Express has changed dramatically since the band’s Parachute EP released last semester. Lead singer Jacob Monk, CSOM ’16, left the band, with Brian Seaver taking over-Brian is the brother of the band’s guitarist Sean Seaver, A&S ’16, and attends Berklee College of Music. Also joining the band is Zoe Ainsburg, who likewise comes from Berklee. Friday’s performance showed off a much-evolved Seaver’s Express, with a far fuller sound and the added dynamic of the two Seaver brothers playing off each other on stage. Even visually, the band has a lot more going on-Brian and Sean jumped around and danced across the stage together.
Less of the musicality depended on the individual members of Seaver’s Express in this larger band setting, and as a result, the five-piece band looked far more comfortable. It’s not clear the judges would have known about this transformation, but even for those in the crowd who had never heard of Seaver’s Express before, it was clear Friday was a good night for the group-it all clicked.
4. Times New Roman (eliminated)
William Bolton, CSOM ’16, has grown into one of the most prolific acts at BC, performing this weekend at both Battle of the Bands and the Fashion Club’s inaugural fashion show under the pseudonym Times New Roman. He was joined by Victor Araromi, A&S ’17, on the drums and Daniel Lyle, A&S ’16, on the keys and mix pad for Friday’s show. With cheetah print boots and belt and purple jeans, Bolton had one of the most memorable looks of the night. Performing what he describes as “soul-hop,” the Detroit singer-songwriter was one of the most unique takes from this year’s Battle of the Bands.
The highlight of Times New Roman’s three-song set was “Let’s Stay Together,” a single recently released by Bolton. Opening with a hook feeling a good bit like old-school Kanye, the track builds into an impressive chorus, reminiscent of the sounds of Pharrell Williams and Aloe Blacc. Alas, the results of this year’s Battle of the Bands were unfavorable for the evening’s “most spoonable” act, but as the old saying goes, when you come to a spoon in the road, take it.
5. Bobnoxious & the Master Craftsmen
Never the same Bobnoxious twice, Bobby Scheuch, CSOM ’14, and his ragtag gang gave Friday’s audience a fair deal to remember. The neo-jazz power group has something of an amorphous identity, playing everything from straight jazz to alternative-rock. Scheuch is easily the most aggressive keyboardist at BC, but the talent doesn’t stop there. Bobnoxious & the Master Craftsmen can feel like they’re making it up as they go, and yet, their timing is impeccable. While the visual aspects of the group’s Friday performance were a sight to behold, it was the music that stood out.
Bobnoxious & the Master Craftsmen will be a tough act for Juice and Seaver’s Express to try to unseat at this year’s Arts Fest. With the band graduating this spring, there’s little to be held back at this stage of the game.
6. The Mints (eliminated)
Terry Peng, A&S ’14, frontman of the Mints, has become a familiar face in the Cabaret Room-the smooth R&B-jazz singer shows up with sunglasses and an earplug every time he makes it to the stage. His distinct look and clean vocals fit in well with the cooler jazz sound of the Mints. Friday’s set was one of the group’s more conservative efforts, a crisply executed, somewhat understated set-the Mints exuded maturity and sound taste, but unfortunately, they fell flat out of the finals.
The Mints are less about the spectacle, vying instead for intelligent musicality, and while Battle of the Bands might not be the best fit for the group, the Mints defined itself as one of BC’s distinguished acts Friday night, and evidently, the “most kissable.”