Battle Royale: a reflection on Battle of the Bands

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Phil Cerroni
Contributing Writer

-----------Photo by Danny Sauer----------- Senior Andrew Esherick of “Buddha D’Souza and the Guys Upstairs” had the audience crowding onto the stage in their winning performance at this year’s Battle of the Bands.

As a bass player who bought his rig to play punk but never did because he wanted to gig, I look back on Battle of the Bands with a certain reserve and wonder, “Was the win worth it?”  Did the winners deserve to win, or does their blatant disregard of what a Battle of the Bands should be warrant disqualification and banishment from the community?

All the other bands that competed last Saturday brought something to the table, but the one I was most impressed with was “The Aristocracy.”  They combined genuine musical talent with solid punk songs.  They played the music they loved even though it meant they had no chance of winning, and I applaud them for that.  Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have thought if they had won.  Since Battle of the Bands at University of Dallas is little more than an exercise in demagoguery, if a punk band really appeals to the upper middle class, Christian tastes of the audience, there’s something wrong with the music, because I have lost all hope that the UD population at large is able to appreciate quality music that is foreign to them.

Another band that deserves a lot of credit is “Tonic and Lime.”  They deftly worked the crowd with natural skill, and their set was definitely the tightest with original music that is better than some nationally ranked bands I have heard.

This is in stark contrast to the winning band, “Buddha D’Souza and the Guys Upstairs,” who, far from entering into the spirit of a Battle of the Bands, where bands should face off their own music and skill, tailored their set to pander to the emotions of the audience, a practice appropriate for suburban 25th anniversary parties but not for a musical Battle Royale.  Never mind that no one seemed to notice that much of their set was played not only at last year’s BOB, where they ranked second place, but also at Mallapalooza last semester.

However, much as I disliked the winners, there were a few points in their favor.  They played like it was their last show, which it very well could have been.  Also, they were the only band I saw that elevated the stage show to the level of the music.  This is an aspect of live performance that I think is far too often ignored at UD.  One thing that musicians need to realize is that the performance is not about them.  It is about the audience and giving them something.  For a few extremely talented musicians, the music is enough, but for most of us, we need to give the spectators a show, to excite them, to appeal to their passions.  Without this always on our minds, we as musicians can turn into little Narcissuses and become pretentious, and even worse – stale.

“Buddha D’Souza” gave the audience something – I could see it in the crowd in the way they were dancing, singing, becoming an integral part of the performance culminating in the most beautiful moment of the evening when they flooded the stage and danced.  The event had finally become completely about the audience.  The band didn’t matter anymore.  I would say Battle of the Bands was a success this year, and regardless of why any of the musicians decided to take the stage, it was a resonant night of music and celebration.

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