Last Friday, Immaculata Academy hosted its fifth annual Battle of the Bands competition to benefit the school. The lineup included local bands Landslide, Rescue Dawn, Contents Under Pressure, the Cascos, Five Surviving and Dollar Diplomacy.
Rescue Dawn frontman RJ DeMarco was feeling quite confident before the show started, saying that he had a feeling they would place at least second. Rescue Dawn, a pop-punk band made up of DeMarco, Jonah Wrest, Tanner DeMarco and Boon Lieber, is known for high-energy performances, getting the crowd involved and great stage presence. Friday's performance was no different. They delivered creative sound clearly and impressively. Looking at these young men on stage it was clear that their passion and dedication to their craft poured off of them in sweat.
Five Surviving, a hard-rock band that had never played a show together before this one, seemed to get the crowd going almost as much as Rescue Dawn did. Lead vocalist Joe Kren said the band members were all at "varying degrees of nervousness" before the show, but their excitement prevailed. The band only played covers, but kicked off its set with "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top, and that got everyone up and moving. Kren's dance moves, accompanied with his dress shirt, tie, vest and shades, fit the role perfectly. Any nervousness he had been feeling was either long gone or well hidden. Five Surviving's lead guitarist, Sam Osmond, looked right in his element as well; he nailed every solo. Besides Kren and Osmond, the other band members are Trek Fulater, Jourdan Pouliot and Nathaniel Kren. The band, with its solid, flawless sound, made it look easy.
Dollar Diplomacy was quite impressive. Tyler Wright, John Harrington, Andrew Phillips and Zach Gilbride came together to create a unique sound, blending that of blues, rock and funk. Beforehand, the members had said they felt no nervous feelings and didn't even have major expectations for the show. "It would be nice to place, but I think we're just happy to play," Wright said. It was hard to believe that the group had only had about three practices with each other under its belt. Dollar Diplomacy exemplified an original sound with creative and remarkable solos and they showed wonderful stage presence as well.
The Cascos came in first place, and Contents Under Pressure, second.
Neither of these groups get a gold star in my book for their performances, sound or any other category in which one may judge music.
I enjoyed the "in between" act more than I enjoyed the two winners combined. Casey Bolles, a senior at the Park School of Buffalo, played covers in between bands to gain some publicity. He gave a NeverShoutNever vibe with his funky acoustic guitar and strong vocals. If you ever get the chance to listen to him, don't pass it up.
The Cascos, a soft rock and indie band, had a nice sound, nothing jaw-dropping or incredibly noteworthy, though. And the lead singer was the only one who seemed to have much of a stage presence. The members of Contents Under Pressure, however, had even less stage presence. The music was all right – they stayed on beat. Each member looked lifeless and had an expression and body language that screamed, "I'd rather be anywhere else but here!"
The setup of the competition was organized, and those in charge seemed eager to accomplish their task of raising money for Immaculata Academy. In previous years, all the fundraising was done through tickets at the door and raffles, but this year they added voting to their fundraising techniques. At the door, everyone who paid for a ticket received a pink wristband for admission and an orange ticket for voting for their favorite band. The opportunity to vote multiple times was offered. For a dollar per vote, fans could vote as many times as they wanted for a particular band. The first-place prize was a studio session valued at $100 from True Sound Studios, and the second-place prize was a cash prize.
While a dollar per vote was a great fundraising technique, I believe it destroyed the basis of the competition and portrayed the idea that no matter who works harder or plays better, if you have enough money, you can buy your way to the top. Unfortunately, that's how the world is much of the time, but it shouldn't be that way for a high school-level contest.