|photo by Matt Sakalas
First prize winner Trial and Error
Battle of the Bands ’05
Be the result good or bad, there’s vitality in young musicians exploring all that is to hear and do in music.
by Erin Huebschman
The smell of teen spirit buzzed through the halls as students gathered to support local music. Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts bulged with over 1,000 music lovers as bands from all over Anne Arundel County came to rock the house at the seventh annual Battle of the Bands last week.
Fans got what they came for when opening band Severna Park’s Champions By Default took the stage. North County’s Good Morning Vietnam followed, the first of that school’s two bands performing.
Between acts, emcee of the evening and former Battle of the Bands performer Danny Mays pumped the crowd up, tossing out T-shirts. As kids rushed the stage for a free shirt, Danny ordered off Severna Park kids. “You have enough money; go buy your own,” he taunted.
When Champagne from South River jammed, bassist Brent Cowell brought a little funk to the room. “I see no decline in rock,” said Cowell, despite widespread claims in the industry that the music of the last half century has lost its appeal.
Judging by the night’s music, he was right. All 12 bands took something from rock, from electric guitars to upright bass to dramatic costumes. Still, each band’s vision was distinct. Be the result good or bad, there’s vitality in young musicians exploring all that is to hear and do in music. Nobody had to endure five hours of screaming punk rock.
As the first-ever acoustic duo to come to the battle, Warehouse Fire from Spalding High played. Drew Novotny and Ben Dehan blew me away with a powerful performance.
Southern High School’s Tarnation garage-rock shook everyone with something harder. Then local Chump from Annapolis rocked with jammy glam-rock that got the crowd going. With a blink of an eye, the 1980s returned with Mephisto’s Trapezoid, a spandex-clad group with moves I haven’t seen since ’88.
Annapolis High’s second band, Tijuana School Bus, was led by barefoot Liz Ross, the only female performer of the evening.
“According to me, Tijuana School Bus were the best so far,” said Adam Weiss, listening with his dad Stewart Weiss, who had judged the battle in 2003. A middle-school musician, Adam said he can’t wait to get to high school and play the Battle himself.
Old Mills’ Twice Hitter gave us all a taste of speed metal — like it or not.
Who’d have guessed this was the first ever performance together for Kracker Barrel out of Arundel High School, who started playing together in early January. To prepare for their big show, “I listened to some of our music and ate three Chick-fil-A sandwiches,” bassist Brad Clark told me.
The second band from North County, Lady Grey, opened with a clip of jail-house rock and continued with guitar-heavy punkabilly sounds.
Singing his heart out, Augie Praley brought on the final band of the night, Key School’s Trial and Error. Appearing at their third battle, Trial and Error moved the crowd with classy originals accompanied by the only keyboard performance of the evening, by Brendan Colgan. Then the Key kids brought down the house with the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” With the Key School Choir joining for the classic’s unmistakable opening, this closing won the only standing ovation of the evening. As soon as those young voices rose, inspired fans rushed forward to get a closer look.
|best-dressed Mephisto’s Trapezoid.
Judges were inspired as well. Key School took first place overall as well as best vocal and stage presentation.
After sweeping the battle, Augie Praley named indie rockers Elliot Smith, Brighteyes and Ben Folds as musical influences.
But the Seventh Battle’s quality was so high that the crowd waited almost an hour for six judges — WRNR DJ Rob Timm; Thunderdome booking agent Michelle Blake; Tower Records event coordinator Megan Curtin; Nightsky Studios owner Ron Vento; and previous winning performers Joleen Werntz (Angelfire, 2001) and Winship Wheatley (Kentavius, 2003) — to decide all the winners.
Cheer went up and photos flashed as the top honors were announced:
- 2nd place: Chump, Annapolis;
- 3rd place: Warehouse Fire, Spalding;
- 4th place: Champagne, South River;
- 5th place: Kracker Barrel;
- 6th place Lady Grey, North County
- Best Guitar: Alex Hrybyk (North County’s Lady Grey);
- Best Bassest: Shawn Slegert (Annapolis’ Chump);
- Best Drummer: Lucas Johnson (also from Chump);
- Best Original Song: Chump.
“I’m impressed how much better the bands have gotten since I played here,” said 2003 performer Laurie Huebschman.
The top six bands will appear at a show at Thunderdome Sunday February 13. First placer Trial and Error wins 50 free tickets to sell to that show, as well as 12 custom-printed T-shirts from Shock Treatment Screen printing and a banner from Donnelly Signs. Musically, the Key band wins a starring role in an Anne Arundel County Health Department television ad, a mall concert in March.