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Concert Review: No One Wins in Battle of the Bands

Excessive Noise Drowns Out Talent, Admissions Office Hijinks

By Jillian Berry

Battle of the Bands

Zeta Beta Tau

April 8, 2006, 7:30 p.m.

Lobdell Dining Hall

On Saturday night, Zeta Beta Tau’s Battle of the Bands 2006 opened to a packed room of prefrosh, parents, and students. Every year, up to ten local bands each compete for 15 minutes for the top spot (and $500), and ticket proceeds of the night going to the charity Children’s Miracle Network. On the roster this year were nine competing bands from MIT and the Boston area, and one guest band — Tremulant, featuring Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones. These bands were hoping to impress the audience and the three judges: Generoso Fierro, Chris McGill, and Adam Reynolds ’01.

I had never been to the Battle of the Bands before Saturday night, and I didn’t know what to expect. When High Voltage Research Lab (an MIT band, of course) began playing, I was excited to hear what these bands had to offer. Their first song sounded like an edgier version of Neil Young (in a good way), but unfortunately, at the same time I also realized just how loud the evening was going to be.

In keeping with the punk rock style of the bands, the volume was turned way up. Punk rock fans may have loved this, but most people in the audience (including this reviewer) found it far too loud. Some people tried to mitigate the noise with earplugs from LaVerde’s. In fact, one of the judges listened to all the bands with earplugs. To make matters worse, the competition was held in Lobdell, and the bands traded off between two different stages, so people constantly needed to move around to find the best view and the least noise. There was little relief to be found in the small space filled with large speakers. After about an hour and a half of the three hour show, I had to sit outside the door to save my hearing.

The noise level was obviously a real drawback to the event, as some of the bands would have been pretty good at a lower decibel. Of note, the winner, Spiritual Rez, had a unique blend of reggae, big band, and rock, which stemmed from the addition of a trombone and trumpet to the usual bass, guitar, and drums. Sweetfist also had an interesting style, which sounded more professional, and unlike some of the other bands, less like a jumble of instruments. In addition, first runner-up Upper Hand, which featured two saxophonists, was actually quite enjoyable. The audience really got into their music, and everyone got a good laugh out of their fourth song, “Difference between you and quantum physics” (guess their department).

Nevertheless, the best performance of the night was from the one band not competing: Tremulant featuring Marilee Jones. The lead singer, Ben Jones (Admissions Office Communications Manager, no relation to Marilee), had a pure voice that could hit high notes with ease. He was overshadowed, however, when Marilee Jones came on stage, decked out in a leather jacket. Everyone was energized, and one pre-frosh even yelled out “thanks for admitting me!” When she started to sing “Big Yellow Taxi,” the whole crowd moved to the beat, and the highlight of the evening came when Tim the Beaver went crowd surfing.

Overall, the evening had a few good notes, but most of them were drowned out by the noise and length of the concert. Most people left after an hour or two, and only a few really hard core fans were able to stay for the full three hours. I would have rather just given the $8 to Children’s Miracle Network than sit through those three hours again.