By Aaron Calvin
The occurrence that was dubbed the "Battle of the Bands" on Saturday can only be considered an oddity, forged from six bands from all sides of the sound spectrum coming together in one room. The sprawling, three hour event was host to different varieties of rock, rhythm and blues, reggae, metalcore and, of course, the ubiquitous jam band. All of these bands were competing for the grand prize that is the opening slot at Music Fest.
The self-described pop punk band Count To Four opened with a couple of copy and paste tunes, filled with yearning lyrics and chugging power chords. The band's demeanor was hopeful, but realistic. "It's okay if you don't like us," the lead singer said apologetically during their set. I guess the judges didn't feel too bad about not picking them for the opening slot then.
Next came The Pitch Drop Experiment. Their set was fairly predictable, filled with on-the-offbeat guitar strums, plunking bass notes and one lone trumpet player. It was also nice to see that the genre hasn't changed its look since Bob Marley made it popular. While the crowd seemed to enjoy them, it seems that they were a little too chill for Music Fest.
Just as the afternoon was beginning to drag, the band that could be considered the most sonically interesting of the afternoon took to the stage/carpeted area. Between three songs, Kids With Guns floated between straightforward garage rock and a fuzzy blues influenced music. While very apparently rough and a little reeling in their musical style, the band played dynamically and had several instances where their songwriting showed potential. I identified with Kids With Guns most on a level of personal taste, but they still seemed a little unpolished to play on the same level as professional musicians.
As soon as The Dirty Gems took the stage, it was obvious they would be the ones to take the gold. While their music was pretty archetypal Rhythm and Blues, they show was irresistibly fun. They had every formula for success locked in: movement, crowd participation and they were more musically tight than any other band that had or would perform. They were nothing short of the obvious choice to play Music Fest.
As soon as they wheeled in their Marshall head amps and guitars with jagged edges, you could taste the influx in stale cigarette smoke in the air. The lead singer, a short man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Adam Sandler, opened with a few words about how they were going to try again this year to be able to play Music Fest and how they played "mad shows" throughout the area. Then the band proceeded to erupt in guttural screams and needlessly loud guitars. Both of their eight-minute long songs sounded like the same kind of noise, but it was amusing and a little sad to watch the five fans the band brought with them attempt to start a mosh pit.
The long afternoon concluded with the drum machine propelled jam band, Breadheadz. They were fairly talented individuals. Their songs were filled with noodling bass lines and other forms of adequate musicianship, but apparently it held little interest for the judges. Apparently, it held little interest for the judges as well.
The whole event concluded with a brief announcement of the winners, The Dirty Gems, and the prize that it entailed.