Dull lights, loud music, and a steadily growing crowd: the ideal venue for any concert. Such was the environment of Eclectic on Friday, April 18, when it hosted the annual Battle of the Bands event.
Battle of the Bands is an annual music contest that invites seven Wesleyan student bands to compete for the coveted gig of opening for Spring Fling. About two weeks ago, students were invited to apply for the Battle. They did so by sending three clips of records or performances to Jake Ewald ’14 and Eric Lopez ’15, co-chairs of the Spring Fling committee. The entire committee got together and surveyed the submissions to pick bands that they wanted to compete. At the same time that they auditioned for performer slots, students could also apply to be judges. Seven judges were chosen to constitute the second and final selection process at the battle itself.
In critiquing something as subjective as music, it is vital to have a variety of opinions. Ewald describes this as an important criterion on which judges were chosen.
“We tried to pick a diverse group of people,” Ewald said. “We had judges that represented a wide variety of people on campus.”
The bands were also judged on their performance, set-up, and ability to compliment the rest of the Spring Fling lineup. The diversity of opinion and tastes of the judges led to a 40-minute discussion following the show to crown a winner. Eventually, the group came to a decision, and all-caps LADD, a band comprised of Jack Ladd ’15, Bennett Gelly ’15, Piers Gelly ’13, and Sam Wheeler ’15, was deemed the winner.
Ladd expressed his excitement about their victory.
“It came as a huge surprise when we found out we won,” Ladd wrote in an email to The Argus. “We’re all psyched about winning, and thrilled to be a part of spring fling.”
Perhaps a factor that made the decision process so difficult was the variety of musical styles represented. Simon Korn ’17, an attendee, noted this breadth in genre.
“[The bands] were definitely diverse,” Korn said. “You had Novelty Daughter with her electronica and vocals. Then you had your power trio, which was Grand Cousin: guitar, bass, and drums. You then had a saxophonist in the Krooks. It was definitely a really good showing of Wesleyan’s musical talent.”
The band that Korn first referred to, Novelty Daughter, is solely comprised of one bold performer, Faith Harding ’14. The big stage and large competing bands didn’t deter her, however, from embracing the spotlight. She sang with soulful and impressive vocals accompanied by electronic backup. Harding describes the process as being a fun opportunity to showcase her talents.
“Everybody got to pick two songs, so you really had to pick your best stuff,” Harding said. “It’s kind of just all of these different people getting up and presenting their best hits to you.”
Ladd also described the song selection process as an opportunity to showcase their latest work as well as engage the audience.
“We wanted to submit out newest material,” Ladd wrote. “We tried to choose songs that were upbeat; something the audience could get into immediately.”
After bands were selected to participate in the battle, they had a week to perfect their set. Ladd describes the rehearsal schedule as being rigorous, but worthwhile.
“We pretty much practiced every day last week to prepare,” Ladd wrote. “It was definitely stressful, but we were mostly just excited at the opportunity. We’ve always wanted to play a show in a big space like Eclectic.”
Other bands included Grand Cousin, the Krooks, and Sky Bars, all of which had strong vocals and musical accompaniment. The identity of the artists was definitely not lost in translation.
“[Sky Bars] is a cappella in disguise, but in a good way,” Korn said, referring to its unique vocals.
Each artist brought personality and just a touch of intimacy to an event that otherwise provoked overstimulation. Without fail, nearly every band had a screamer, some of which boasted notes in nearly unheard frequencies which were always eye-widening, but not necessarily outside of the bounds of appreciation.
In addition to the unique vocals and stylistic choices, the event was brimming with enthusiasm. Harding notes that this was a result of the context of a battle.
“The energy was very high because there was a goal in mind,” Harding said. “Everybody, the audience and the performers, was just a little bit more energized.”
The relationship between the crowd and the performers was reciprocal; Ladd found that the excitement of the audience helped energize his own performance.
“The crowd was super receptive and high energy,” Ladd wrote. “[This] really helped us lose ourselves in the performance.”
This energy was certainly not lost. From writhing dancers who repeatedly mistook my thin flats for floorboards to flying lingerie, the crowd was definitely casting their vote: an enthusiastic, if not slightly sloshed, two thumbs up.
Music should be about key, composition, and tone, but sometimes it needs to embrace the complete opposite: passion, disorder, volume, and, god forbid, a scream or two. Be sure to catch all-caps LADD as the frontrunner for the Spring Fling lineup on Foss, should weather permit, on May 8 to experience the eccentric, carefree, and oddly beautiful music that Wesleyan has to offer.