Mayfest kicked off its annual Battle of the Bands at Tommy Nevin’s Pub on Thursday night with four bands and an important announcement: The New Pornographers will be the Dillo Day daytime headliner. Mayfest announced the band to lukewarm reception by playing one of their songs over the speakers. Few in the crowd recognized the song, but a few more caught on as the announcement was officially made.
The focus of the night, however, was the musicians who braved a broken drum set and questionable sound mixing to make their case to five judges, including Mayfest co-chairs Chase Jackson and Michael Gebhardt as well as Bienen professor Rebecca Bennett.
Each band performed with a unique sound, providing a varied night of music. Ashes opened the night with Lamb of God-inspired groove metal that struggled to vary throughout the band’s half-hour set. Still, the crowd headbanged all the way through and chanted the band’s name after they left the stage, still wanting more. Lead singer Frank Adamo, Loyola ’08 announced the band’s last song about ten minutes into the set, launching into an incoherent but relentlessly heavy 20-minute metal epic, providing only two moments of clean guitar repose. One heavy riff in the middle broke away from the Lamb of God influence and felt more like a Tool riff and stood out as a definite highlight. Surprisingly, the sound team mixed the loudest band the best, as sound quality would diminish throughout the night.
Mori and the Moonwalkers took the stage after technical difficulties. Their angular indie pop set revolved around lead singer and Communication sophomore Mori Einsidler’s impressive energy, though her pitch sometimes went sharp in the higher notes. Her best moments came when she put down the guitar and focused on her vocals, allowing her to move about the stage and interact with the crowd. They closed the set with a surprisingly authentic cover of Michael Jackson’s 1991 song “Black or White.”
Both bands offered decent sets with definite high points and low points, but the quality notably increased once E.L. Cross started their set. The high-hat on the night’s drum set broke as they did their soundcheck, but they still managed to bring their blend of Mayer Hawthorne-styled funk that raised the energy of the performance to new heights. Nevin’s Pub crowded to a certain maximum capacity, and lead singer Eric Cross, a McCormick sophomore, hit all the right notes in his falsetto. Two female singers, Emma Javois, a Bienen sophomore, and Gabriella Kaplan, a Weinberg freshman, backed Cross up but took the lead for a rollicking cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” easily their best song of the night. While Cross’ compositions may have been generic, they were well-performed and energetic.
After Mayfest announced The New Pornographers as the Dillo Day afternoon headliner, most of the crowd left. Still, the Cables played the final set to a committed crowd of fans, providing the most original, well-composed songs of the evening. Most of the songs came from lead singer and Communication junior Kara Ali Goldsmith’s solo repertoire, including “Half Way” and “Windowpane.” They performed an extended version of “Gloria,” the only song where backup vocalist Ursula Ellis, a Communication junior, took the lead, as James Clemer, a sophomore in Bienen, Weinberg and McCormick, fixed his guitar’s amplifier. Still, their set fell short of the maximum time, and Goldsmith performed a cover of “Smell Yo Dick,” at the urging of the crowd, to close the set.
All in all, The Cables and E.L. Cross emerged as the certain best groups of Thursday night, but Dance Marathon band whysowhite and other high-profile acts will perform on Friday night. Check back for more coverage on the Battle of the Bands and Mayfest’s Friday announcement of another Dillo Day artist.
Whysowhite opened night two of Mayfest Battle of the Bands with a bouncy rap and dance-friendly beat that sealed their fate as next week’s Dillo Day performer. The seven-member group played some covers as well as original songs, but it was the combination of rap and heavy percussion sound that got the crowd pumped. The band’s larger-than-life energy and stage presence no doubt played an important role in their success. No band was able to replicate such excitement over the course of the night, though every act garnered its own circle of enthused supporters.
Doug Kaplan was the second performer to take the stage, introducing a decidedly different sound and air. The band, consisting of various pedals and keys, and the man himself, sounded like the perfect act for a popular college town coffee shop. Though many clearly enjoyed the opportunity to hear the strange otherworldly set, it turned out to be too subtle for the raucous Friday night audience of Tommy Nevin’s Pub.
The Aurelia Trio spent some time setting up but followed with some strong Latin songs and an impressive lead vocal done largely in Spanish. It didn’t appear that everyone was in the mood to meringue, but excitement for the set rarely wavered as the band alternated genres and languages.
The Shadowboxers brought the night full circle with a set that was loud, easy to dance to and reminiscent of contemporary rock/pop. Impressively, some of their original creations proved just as popular with the head-bopping audience as the covers they performed to perfection.
The judges’ results were more or less in line with audience enthusiasm throughout the night. The Aurelia Trio and the Shadowboxers tied for runner-up (the first tie in quite some time). Whysowhite won the night and the coveted spot on the Dillo Day program.