By Lisa Dicarlucci
The speakers were blaring amateur Rock and Roll at Hofstra USA on Wednesday night but unfortunately there was hardly a crowd to absorb the sound. The Hofstra Rotaract, Health and Wellness Club and Eta Sigma Gamma Honors society hosted their 3rd Annual Battle of the Bands to raise money for the Smile Train organization but few supporters came out for the cause.
Fortunately for those in the crowd, the low attendance did little to diminish the energy of the bands playing. An incentive was likely the panel of judges which included Mark Mendoza, the bassist from Twisted Sister, Joe Rock from WBAB and Sam Little from Hofstra's own WRHU, who gave feedback after each performance.
The first band, All New Episode was a high energy pop-punk band that threw in a few hints of ska into their set. The band featured a female vocalist who treated the show like a stadium performance, constantly moving around and interacting with the crowd. The band did a good job of staying in sync and maintain a solid rhythm, even as the drummer's bass drum started to slip away from him. Each member of the band did well to keep moving making for a dynamic stage presence. Some awkward male back-up vocals fell flat however.
Makin' Treble, Hofstra's only all-female a capella group gave a performance that served as a nice palate cleanser between bands. The group has been performing around campus for at least a year now and has opened with the same song almost every time which needs to be mixed up. Some new songs that followed brought things around though. Unfortunately the sound system did not work in their favor, blasting the lead vocals (with some dangerously high notes) and drowning out the background. An excellent rendition of "Empire State of Mind," rap included, made up for any earlier mishaps. Technically this group was not part of the competition but merely for entertainment.
The evening then took a very dark and loud turn with FXZERO a scream metal band featuring several Hofstra students. Their volume and energy was intense with a lead vocalist that let out some serious screams ranging from low to high with impressive strength for his small stature. The guitar and bass sections added a tight, dynamic quality to the songs, even slipping in bits of classical pieces to keep things fresh. Certainly not everyone's cup of tea but it was a great representation of the metal core genre for this contest.
The crowd nearly doubled in size (to about 20 people) for the last act, Drift Away, an acoustic duo. Slowing down the pace from the previous group, these two sounded something like an unplugged Alice and Chains or Staind with really solid guitar playing and angsty lyrics. Their harmonies were spot on my the melody singer greatly overpowered the other in volume. Luckily his voice was incredible, hitting some impressively high notes with perfect pitch.
At the end of the night third place went to FXZERO, second place to All New Episode and the grand prize, a $2,000 PR contract went to Drift Away, a well-deserved winner.