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Bands Battle at UCSB

Whittled down from nearly 30 applicants, five bands let loose
with their competitive juices at UCSB Battle of the
Bands
on the evening of Saturday, March 3, all in an
effort to show which student-affiliated melody makers were the
best. Freaky collective Boombox Orchestra managed to take home top
honors with their eye-catching combo of on-stage chaos and
multiple-instrumented musical mayhem. Associated Students Program
Board and the University Center at UCSB sponsored Battle of the
Bands Saturday, which was held in the newly renovated Hub on
campus. The five bands — of which at least one member had to be a
UCSB student — were selected from CD demo submissions to play
25-minutes sets, while four judges scratched their heads over who
would be crowned victor based on criteria like crowd reception,
presentation, technical musicianship, and creativity. The
first-prize winner gets to play at Extravaganza
, UCSB’s
annual free concert, at the end of the year, but the second-place
winner, whichever band brought in the most people, gets to play at
Storke Plaza during the spring quarter.

First to play was Nekrogoblikon, whose sound can
best be described as metal goblins from space.
Their dueling guitar riffs and high-pitched screaming vocals were
enough to make this fantasy metal legit, but the keyboards that
swept along with the guitars and the ridiculous lyrical level that
you’re not worthy of being on, made them one of the most fun to
watch. Looking around, some may not have felt that level, as there
was little need for crowd control. Technically, their tempo was
lost a few times perhaps their show would’ve been better for a
goblin battlefield rather than a closed and acoustically estranged
structure, but a feeling of complete brutality and unchecked
imagination came across nonetheless.

Since we were all awake, it was time for Ambidextrous, who have a reputation
to rock just as much as they lounge. Lead singer Michelle Williams
displayed her powerful, soulful vocals, swooning
the crowd, who were all on their feet. The more bluesy moments felt
like Led Zeppelin, but a solid, funky bass line and talented
saxophone playing from Joe Masinter brought the slow jams more to a
club jazz level at times. The crowd was easily taken by their
psychedelic jams.

Easily the most popular band there, Pondera took the funk and
hard rock a bit farther, making a fusion between riffed-out blues
and power chord rock. If Thrice was a funk band, they would sounds
something like Pondera. The crowd seemed to have the most fun
they’ve had all night, even during a more ambient song, which
eventually dissolved into a fresh jam with solos and heavy
beats
. Homemade t-shirts were sported by their large local
fan base, but by the time it was all over, both the band and the
crowd were more shirtless and chanting for an encore.

The next act separated itself from the rest with face painting,
a trampoline, costumes, glow sticks and an ensemble of thirteen
entertainers — six of which are musicians — filling the stage with
insanity and eclectic instruments like harp and
sitar. Boombox
Orchestra
brought the house to a level not yet reached that
night, playing funky trip hop with a menagerie of sounds. The
amount of effort that went into their show shined through, and
should have reminded some of The Hairbrain Scheme’s victorious
appearance at Battle of the Bands in 2005.

The last band, Castro, recently opened
for Ghostface Killah and kept the funk theme of the night going
with hip hop and soul sounds as well. Castro was just a lot of fun,
a great sense of humor. The lead vocalist had an amazing
R&B voice
and the MC spit fast lyrics like
Bone Thugs
. The crowd was into it up to the very end, when
it came to announce the winners.

An estimated 500 people attended and cast their vote at the
ticket window, some showing support with homemade t-shirts. There
were DJs for in between the bands, continuing the sonic flow.
University Center restaurant Chilito’s brought the beer garden
down, set up with booths and bars. Tight security padded students
down and denied re-entry, although a smoking area was set up
outside.

Battle of the Bands coordinator Cristen Penn explained that
After Hours At the Hub was created by the Associated Students
Program Board and the University Center as a late-night alternative
for those who don’t want to stick around in IV every weekend.
Fridays and Saturdays now take over the Hub with bands, comedy
shows, and random events or student groups providing inexpensive,
sometimes free entertainment with an occasional beer garden. In
Cristen Penn’s words, After Hours at the Hub aims to make a place
where “students [are] able to come here even when they don’t know
exactly what’s going on, just that it will be cool.” These nights
will go on till 1:30 a.m. Grant Stevens is an Independent
intern.

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