Battle of the Bands: a place in UD tradition

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The Acting Demickeys' Michael Weisenburger, who also coordinated Battle of the Bands, performs during the third set of the night. Photo by Paulina Martin.

On the second floor of Haggerty Science Center, the organizers of Battle of the Bands transformed the classrooms and hallways into a V.I.P. area for the bands, complete with refreshments, cookies and chips and salsa, as well as exclusive access to the balcony overlooking the Mall.

Here they milled and chatted with one another while waiting for the allotted time to play their sets.

Sometimes they would head down to watch the performances of their rivals; they were allowed admission upstairs again by flashing brightly colored VIP badges.

The first band of the night was Malbec, a trio comprised of senior Mary Grace Quinlan (vocals and guitar), junior Sofia Kagan (vocals and keyboard) and freshman Luke Andreas.

Quinlan and Kagan were a popular duo at acoustic-style Cap House performances, but they added a drummer at the start of the semester to prepare for Battle of the Bands.

“I’m so excited just to play as a whole band, because we haven’t really done that,” Kagan said. “We have just played acoustically, but as a whole band with a drummer and everything it’s a totally different sound that what we’re used to.”

Their set was a throwback mix from eclectic genres with the addition of an original song, which was the highlight of the night for the performers. Members of the crowd who had heard them perform their original at Cap Houses in the past sang along.

While the Breaker Boys, named with their Irish heritage in mind, might have been the youngest group, they were certainly the most experienced performers.

All six of its members were high school students except for UD freshman William Morris, but the group has performed together a number of times, including a talent show in Irving that they won.

They played a seven-song set of Irish-American folk music, including Friday-nights’ favorite “Wild Rover,” and an ode to St. Thérése of Lisieux with a varied range of instruments from fiddle to flute and multi-part vocal harmonies.

The style catered to the UD audience, with many in the growing crowd dancing and singing along.

The name of the next band in the line-up, The Acting Demickeys, also drew upon the Irish, here with a slang term meaning “to not know what the [expletive] you’re doing,” according to lead guitarist and vocalist, senior Michael Weisenberger.

The band includes his cousin Ray Baumgratz, a University of Texas student, on drums; senior Andrew Jacob on assorted instruments and vocals; and senior Jacob Tom on bass, guitar and vocals.

Weisenberger, who was also the coordinator of Battle of the Bands, signed up the group to flesh out the line-up.

The three UD students had come together when they were members of the same Rome class.

Their goal, of course, was to give the crowd a good time, but as seniors this was also one of the last opportunities for them to participate in the UD community, especially since the first place winner gets to play at Groundhog.

“Playing at Groundhog is an awesome, awesome thing,” Tom said. “Even if it’s just the first band out there and you don’t get the crowd, it’s just the idea that hey, you can tell your kids twenty years from now that you played at Groundhog, and if they go here they know what that means.”

Their six-song set consisted of covers of bands from the Eagles to Sara Bareilles.

The crowd reacted enthusiastically to the familiar opening chords of favorites like “House of the Rising Sun” and the White Stripes’ “Seven-Nation Army.”

The final, most anticipated act of the night was Whistle Pig, with senior Joseph Benitez (keyboard), junior Andrew Lane (guitar and vocals), junior Matthew Crews (saxophone),  junior Aviana Quiroga (vocals), senior Sam Phelan (drums), junior Brad Cleaver (guitar and vocals) and junior Jose Lopez (bass).

The band made its UD debut earlier this semester at Throwback TGIT where they gained popularity within the student body.

While individually the group has different tastes, they found common ground in the late 90s and early 2000s pop rock genre.

This genre guides which bands they cover, including The Killers, Panic! At the Disco, Jimmy Eat World and Evanescence.

The name Whistle Pig, another term for a groundhog, was meant to indicate to band’s ties to the UD community.

They performed their original song “Rome Grown,” which is a unique expression of the UD experience.

The group practiced two or three times a week this semester because Battle of the Bands, and ultimately Groundhog, were in their sights.

“For me the driving force of making the band was just to have a really good time,” Lane said. “So I hope we can go up there and get everyone involved and have a really great time.”

“It’s a great college story too,” added Crews.

The band was a crowd favorite because of their already high profile in the UD community and a polished sound that audience members remarked upon.

After closing their planned seven-song set with a crowd-pleasing cover of “Closer”, by The Chainsmokers, they acquiesced to demands for an encore with a cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.”

The crowd refused to finish the night there, however, singing an impromptu rendition of the Star-spangled Banner before it allowed Moey Brown, SPUD director, to announce the winners: Malbec in third, The Acting Demickeys in second, and Whistle Pig claiming first and the Groundhog performance.

Drummer Sam Phelan performs with Whistle Pig, which won Battle of the Bands. They will play at Groundhog. Photo by Anthony Garnier.
Drummer Sam Phelan performs with Whistle Pig, which won Battle of the Bands. They will play at Groundhog. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

The winners were decided by an alumni panel of judges with scoring sheets as well as an option for the crowd members to text in their votes.

Then, playing “Stacey’s Mom” over the speakers for the crowd, the event came to a close.

Battle of the Bands is traditionally an event with lower attendance, but this year was an improvement from the past. A tally tracker counted 224 attendees while 165 ID’s were scanned, for a total of 389 in attendance.

SPUD had spent three months planning the event, screening bands, booking tents and holding weekly meetings with Aramark and facilities.

Weisenberger was appointed coordinator for musical entertainment last spring.

On Saturday morning SPUD members were there by 9 a.m. setting up for the event and cleaning up until well after 1 a.m.

“I want to thank the student body because we had such a great turnout tonight,” Brown said. “I’ve never seen this turnout at a battle, especially being in this position last year, so I thought it was so amazing.”

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