Written by Bwog Staff
Bwogger Justin Gonçalves weighs in with words and pictures from last night’s ESC Battle of the Bands.
Last night, on the storied stage of Roone Arledge Auditorium, the Engineering Student Council capped off its annual E-Week celebrations with the ESC Battle of the Bands. After five bands ran through ten-minute sets, Crown Victoria and the Kitchen Cabinet were crowned winners, leaving this reviewer wondering whether the university’s lack of dedication to undergraduate “underground arts,” as discussed today in the Spec, has had any impact on the music scene’s creative spirit. Has the creative spirit had been replaced entirely by a (not entirely mutually exclusive) desire to entertain?
The night began with eventual winners, Crown Victoria, whose Teddy Geiger-inspired alt-rock set an early tone for the musical portion of the evening. The band, fronted by Alexander Howard C’09, rollicked through a very tight series of tunes that might eventually find their home in a Budweiser commercial. And for that, they received the highest score of the evening.
After taking a break to meet the Ms. SEAS contestants, last year’s Battle of the Bands’ co-champion The Shake, took the stage. The band, which has been noticeably absent from many of the campus’ musical events, has established a small following in and around New York City with their bombastic Brit-rock, embracing and reveling in the tropes of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. Each song they played had you wondering whether or not they were finally playing an Oasis cover or just another song that sounded like an Oasis cover. Oh, and Merkin sings with a fake British accent.
The next band on the docket was Congress. As someone who makes a point of knowing many of my fellow campus musicians, these guys came out of nowhere. And after their cover of “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit’,” I wasn’t surprised I hadn’t heard of them. Their set continued with some poor covers of Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” and James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” proving that some songs cannot be easily adapted into the “goofy funk band” genre. Not even the judges, who were relatively lax on its bands, dug Congress.
Next up was the Kitchen Cabinet, comprised of Anna Couturier C’10, Ashraya Gupta C’09, Cynthia Gooden C’10, Michael Molina C’10 (Bwog’s Theatre Editor), and Rob Stenson C’10. Aside from some very unfortunate technical difficulties that hindered the first part of the group’s set, the band played its girl-pop twist on the Grand Ole Opry particularly well. Although the combination of rich harmonies, mandolin, and banjo could’ve easily filled that empty Dixie Chicks-niche on campus, but the Kitchen Cabinet restrained themselves and came off sounding more like the Supremes during that phase where they embraced bluegrass and inexplicably invited Sarah McLachlan to join.
The night’s last performer was also its lone hip-hop act. DJ Tanner, the brainchild of Pete Capraro SEAS ’09 and Michael Kosdan SEAS ’09, came began its set inculcating P. Diddy by reimaginging Bollinger’s “Petty Dictator” Speech as a criticism of mainstream hip-hop. While it’s debatable as to whether the two take themselves seriously, the group’s rhymes and beats come across as a bit, well, whack. For two MCs that are “An army against a plethora of whack,” it’s a bit odd that they can’t se themselves biting the same rap tropes that they’re criticizing. Their set closer, “Hip-Hopcracy,” suddenly took on new meaning.