Student Acts Offer Fierce Competition at ‘Battle of the Bands’

Battle of the Bands

As the crowd clapped and roared, Rachel Moon, MCAS ’19, ran off the stage and into the audience, where she thrashed on her guitar while dancing with students. Her performance was full of the carefree pep and energy that defines college music scenes, and which ruled over the competitive atmosphere of Battle of the Bands last Thursday evening in the Cabaret Room at Vanderslice. Putting aside rivalries and the desire for victory, each band sought first and foremost to deliver a distinctive and crowd-riling performance, demonstrating the eclectic range of musical talents that proliferate at Boston College.

Shady Lady opened the night with an indie-folk extravaganza. On songs like “Bed Bugs,” which expressed themes of love sickness and anxiousness, the band progressed from distant and melancholy soundscapes to fast-paced and ecstatic finales that impactfully conveyed the emotion of liberating oneself from teenage angst—nonetheless keeping a perfect balance between vulnerable intimacy and cool detachedness. Between the hauntingly subdued and country-twanged vocals of Katie Kelleher, CSOM ’18, and those of her bandmate Nicole Rodger, MCAS ’19, who added to the set with tambourine jingles and other eclectic instruments, the band showcased a diverse range of singing styles, all of which contributed to a cohesive and compelling aesthetic vision.

While Shady Lady hammered home the image of a folkish female band, The Backyard Astronauts took the audience floating among an atmosphere of glitchy computer sounds and laid-back electronica. The band cycled through drum-loops using a simple Korg-pad whose programming complexity was evident in the increasingly intricate percussion the keyboardist sprinkled over the bass-brimming synthesizers. Acoustic guitars on the second single provided slick string-plucks to the steely and impersonal atmosphere that belied the band’s emotionally vulnerable subject matter. Less of a crutch than an aesthetic decision, the Astronauts delivered a spacey minimalism reminiscent of such Gothic-tinged R&B acts as The xx, James Blake, and Spooky Black.

But if it were a competition for coolness, no doubt Funky Giant would be the winner. Through jamming piano keys and wobbling bass-slaps, the band evoked the simultaneous grind and languor familiar to any funk-loving drifter. Vocalist Jaclyn Chan, MCAS ’18, warned the audience that the groups’ first track, “Funk Love,” contained some swearing, before proceeding to jam out a slow and sensual melody about romantic partners getting high and doing exactly what the title implies. The build-up was completely organic, as pianist Chris Vu, MCAS ’17, and guitarist Matt Chilton, CSOM ’18, played off each other’s passionate riffing. Bassist Nicholas Giordano, MCAS ’18, was the definition of a man lost in the music, sliding his fingers along the bass strings as his face contorted in all possible expressions, culminating in a wild solo the whole crowd applauded.

Little Saturday opened with “Sunny Nights,” a slow and steamy throwback to the mist-filled city corridors of ’70s detective movies. With Isaiah Rawlinson, MCAS ’18, on the tenor sax, the band orchestrated an epic combination of Phish-inspired jam-rock and electric-guitar driven crescendos. The second track, “Running,” captured the paranoia of a comical character lost in some bizarre Halloween-themed nightmare. Vocalist Andrew Hammond, MCAS ’18, was quick to gather the crowd’s participation, putting on a high-key “class-act” as one anonymous audience member called it. The best moments were indeed when the band ended in a perfectly timed silence, giving Hammond space to chant his impassioned lyrics without interference. 

The musical manifesto of Common Wealth, a self-proclaimed “Neo-communist” band seeking the free-distribution of music, put off some listeners who did not at first understand the smartly satirical synthesis of edgy politics and ear-grating sludge-metal. Vocalist Stephen Porritt, MCAS ’18, complemented his grimoire bass-guitar with operatic singing that bordered between hilariously whiny and profoundly moving. On the first track he sang about the difficulties of boyhood, and the shock that life does not get any better with manhood. The second track, which Porritt confessed they had written the night prior, was like the soliloquy of a dying cow being shipped to a meat-processing plant. But the band came back with their triumphant single “Don’t Pinch,” in which Porritt repeatedly howled the lyrics “It doesn’t mean a thing / Everything points toward the end.”

Rapper Phenom V and DJ Xtremesounds stole the night with a completely wild combination of cloud-rap and rock-music. Phenom V’s enthusiastic stage-presence cannot be understated. At times appearing as if he were about to leap out of his body, the Boston-based rapper sent the audience into a dancing frenzy as he shouted heart-pounding anthems and interacted on stage with the other musicians—the guitarist at one moment falling onto his knees while shredding a gnarly solo. In the background was Xtremesounds who provided an ear-shattering barrage of bass-kicks and well-timed explosions. Toward the end of the performance, Phenom V spoke of his Haitian heritage and a recent conversation with his mother during which she told him to pursue school against his wishes of pursuing music. The last track represented his reconciliation of his mother’s wishes and his own—lending to a truly poignant finale.

Music Guild crowned Shady Lady, Funky Giant, and Phenom V the winners of Battle of the Bands at the end of the night. Despite their fierce competition, the three acts showcased their incredible talents with distinguished style and flare.

Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff