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Battle of the Bands offers mosh to be proud of

From first-time performers to seasoned pros, guitar program fundraiser brings like-minded musicians and their fans together for memorable night of rock ‘n’ roll

Local bands took the stage in the McCallum Fine Arts Building and battled it out last Thursday during this year’s edition of the Battle of the Bands. Mac Classical Guitar kicked off the new year with its annual competition and fundraiser. It’s one of the guitar program’s biggest and most popular events and raises money for new guitars, equipment and scholarships for its performance in L.A.

I’m pretty sure I overheard one of [the teachers] say something like, ‘Reminds me of the ’90s.’ It’s fun to think about the teachers doing that kind of stuff when they were our age. I bet some of the faculty could seriously rock out.

— senior Phin Miller

Red River Trucking Co. and Henry Jewesson earned the right to play at Hole in the Wall by placing in the competition, but judging from the comments made in the captions that follow, all of the bands who performed were winners.

Battle of the Bands gets groups from all over the school and lets them perform in front of a live audience of their peers, bringing exposure to old and new bands. The lineup included Spiral Maze, Nest, Pipe, Red River Trucking Co. and many more. Battle of the Bands is all about bringing together students both in the bands and in the audience and encourages them to dance, cheer, create mosh pits, and overall just have a good time.

We are proud to present this year’s Battle of the Bands Tuesday Top 10. Actually this Top 10 goes to 11 as a every rockin’ photo essay should.

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THE BEST OF NEST: Senior Avery Atkinson, the bass player of “Nest,” performs alongside her fellow band members. Atkinson was taken back by the moment when swarms of students flocked to the stage during her performance, and inspired the formation of a mosh.

“The crowd coming up to the stage was definitely shocking,” Atkinson said. “I didn’t expect that for our first time performing.”

The members of Nest have only been playing together for about a month and a half and already have two original pieces that were performed on Thursday.

On drums for Nest, was sophomore Dustin Stanley, who is excited that people got a taste of Nest’s genre, giving the band a solid start.

“It’s cool our first time performing is at Mac,” Stanley said. “I’m glad we got to play our originals, we’ve been working hard the past few weeks to prepare.”

Caption by Maggie Mass. Photo by Julia Copas.

LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT: Audience members at Battle of the Bands hold their phone flashlights, swaying to the music. One of the students amongst this mass was sophomore Maggie Gravette, who particularly enjoyed the moment.

“It’s always fun to be part of a crowd that’s really into the music,” Gravette said. “Everyone was cheering, dancing and had their flashlights on, which I think made everyone more excited about the performance.”

Gravette went specifically to support her friends, but found all of the performances to be entertaining.

“I think that they [the performances] were super good,” she said. “People were singing along and even forming mosh pits. I had a really good time.”

Caption by JoJo Barnard. Photo by Julia Copas.

ALL ABOUT THAT BASS: Performing with his band Nest, senior Jack Dover finishes off the last song in their set with a bass solo.

“I was really trying to focus in on my playing,” Dover said.

Battle of the Bands was the first time Nest has performed, which made the experience especially meaningful for Dover.

“We’ve been practicing for about a month and a half,” Dover said. “I really enjoyed sharing my own music that my band and I have been working on. I’d say I’m pretty happy with how we’re doing now, and I think it’s nice to bring some other sounds to the McCallum band scene.”

Dover also just appreciated the chance to be surrounded by other students with similar interests as him.

“It was really a lot of fun,” He said. “It was great to see a lot of people who were so passionate about music all together in one space and being able to share their love for music.”

Caption by Alice Scott. Photo by Sophia Manos.

BEHIND THE FAÇADE: Senior bassist Oscar Morales plays Façade’s original song, “Schitzo.”

“Schitzo was kind of inspired by the state of mind of a crazy person,” Morales said. “It’s very abrasive and high energy, shifts into a calm floaty interlude, then back to high energy.”

“Schitzo” was one of three songs on Façade’s setlist, each debuting for the first time at Battle of the Bands.

“We wanted to show off what was new,” Morales said. “’REMO’ is somewhat of an intro. It’s very calm and droning, but the energy picks up near the end of the song.”

While “REMO” and “Schitzo” were both well received, Morales said the highlight of the set was their finale: “Quasar.”

“Quasar is a psychedelic jam that reflects our sound really well,” Morales said. “It’s one of my favorites of ours and actually stems from a riff I wrote a while back and brought to the guys.”

Quasar got the most enthusiastic reaction of the set, and although crowd-surfing ensued, Morales was undistracted by anything beyond his instrument.

“Sometimes I don’t even register the fact that there’s an audience in front of me,” he said. “I get a little lost in the music.”

Caption by Caroline Owen. Photo by Julia Copas.

SPIRALING UP: Sophomore Zane Shieh performs a song with his band Spiral Maze.

“It was a fun and chill set,” Shieh said. “[It] felt a little stressful but that’s nothing out of the norm.”

According to Shieh, Battle of the Bands offered a great opportunity for Spiral Maze to get more exposure.

“[We] have been playing for a little over a year now,” Shieh said. “We’ve played at some coffee shops, some school carnivals, the rodeo and a few more coming up. We are one of the youngest indie rock bands in the U.S. too. We released a song last August called ‘Why Should I Care,’ and we got a few more singles on the way with vocals from Hannah and I.”

Shieh also found value in being surrounded by other bands and getting to share their music with one another.

“The best part for me was being able to play for my friends and seeing other people’s bands play,” Shieh said.

Caption by Alice Scott. Photo by Julia Copas.

NO NEED TO PIPE DOWN: For senior Lucas Hendrix, this year’s Battle of the Bands competition marked the first time he was interested in participating. Alongside the rest of the band “Pipe,” Hendrix took the stage of the McCallum Fine Arts Building Theater. A bit different from the gigs he’s used to playing, so Hendrix wasn’t sure how the atmosphere would be.

“[It was ] actually lit,” Hendrix said. “I didn’t think people would be that close, but they were up! I didn’t have to look anywhere behind them, so I wasn’t nervous; it was normal.”

This closeness was brought on by the removal of a stage extension, a surprising but welcome elimination that changed the energy of the contest for the better.

“That extension of the stage is gone, which left a space for young moshers to go hard to pipe.”

Though he was performing for a different crowd than usual, Hendrix was grateful for his opportunity to be up on stage, playing for fellow students.

“It was entirely for kids and people I know and not for punks and metal-heads,” he said. “I don’t really like that audience.”

This performance marked a changing point for Pipe, who are turning over a creative leaf now that Battle of the Bands is over.

“I think the battle was the last Pipe show as a hardcore punk band,” Hendrix said. “We are going to entirely change.”

Caption by Helen Martin. Photo by Julia Copas.

TO THE BEAT OF THEIR OWN DRUM: Senior King Perez plays the drums with his band, Red River Trucking Co. at Thursday’s Battle of the Bands.

The band had plans to play “Red River Line” as well as a new song they had been working on, “Road Dog Fever,” but later decided to add “12 Gauge Shotgun” and “Lawbreakin’ Man.”

“We chose the first two because they’re newer and we feel like they’ve come together and are a good representation of us now,” Perez said.

Perez shared that the band performed well overall and that the audience’s reaction was the best pay off.

“My most memorable moment from that night was seeing everyone jumping off the stage and moshing,” he said. “It is always awesome seeing people enjoy our music in that way.”

Caption by Gaby Esquivel. Photo by Julia Copas.

STEPPING IT UP: Sophomore  Kingsley Taylor is a vocalist and occasional guitarist in the band Malaysiabrunei. While his passion for singing has always been there, it’s really evolved this year.

“I’ve been singing my whole life, but in the past year, it’s been something I’ve been really getting into,” Taylor said. “I started to actually learn how to sing with my diaphragm as well instead of just singing through your throat. The reason I did this was because I’ve always been into music and being in a band sounded like a lot of fun. To be able to perform and write songs sounded amazing.”

Taylor and his best friend Wyatt Philpott were focused on the fun part of a band when they started it, and it came together with others joining after that.

“What inspired me most to make a band was having fun,” Taylor said. “Me and Wyatt, our bassist, were the original members. We first started out by making a song around a riff I made. Later we got Simon [Welch], the guitarist, from my rock climbing gym and then a little later we got April [Kjorness], the drummer.”

Taylor especially loves the music community and feels that their band has made a lot of progress from their first show.

“The community and being able to watch and listen to everyone’s music was my favorite part of Battle of the Bands,” Taylor said. “People are so incredibly talented, and it’s amazing to see that come to life through songs. For us, I think our stage presence was really good and a step up from our first show, which we played in my backyard a couple of weeks prior.”

Caption by Shila Gill. Photo by Sophia Manos.

THE NEW AND IMPROVED RED RIVER TRUCKING CO.: Coming back to play at Battle of the Bands after their summer tour, numerous practice sessions and getting a second-place win the prior year, Red River Trucking Co. came back to play for the McCallum community and reconnect to their roots. The band used the opportunity to not only connect to the school but show their growth as a band as well.

For senior Joaquin Frazier, a member of the band, the performance gave reassurance on how the group has improved their playing, and how far they have come member by member.

“Being able to play to a school crowd again was the best part of the performance,” Frazier said. “It was cool being able to show how much tighter we got as a band and what we learned about showmanship on the road.”

The band’s tour over the summer was a turning point and gave them the setting to learn how to perform better in front of a live audience and connect as a band—something they were able to directly take with them to Battle of the Bands.

“It’s been a minute since we’ve gotten to do something for McCallum students,” Frazier said. “We’ve definitely gotten tighter chemistry-wise.”

Going into the performance the band had their setlist down to a T; however, they spontaneously decidedly to change it 15 minutes before the show. The group also debuted a brand new song, a memorable moment for Frazier, and at the end of the night, the band secured a first-place win followed by second-place winner Henry Jewesson.

“I feel like our musical relationships have become stronger, to the point where we know exactly how everyone individually handles musical ideas,” Frazier said.

Caption by Chloe Lewcock. Photo by Julia Copas.

DO THE MOSH-ED PIT-ATO: Senior Phin Miller (center) stands in the audience-turned-mosh pit in the Fine Art Building Theater. This year’s Battle of the Bands wasn’t Miller’s first rodeo. In fact, as bassist for the student band Daydreamer, Miller is used to being on the stage; after coming in second place as a sophomore and first as a junior, Miller has had his moments in the Hole in the Wall spotlight. This year, however, his band didn’t perform, so Miller was able to participate in the fundraiser from a different perspective.

“It was a completely different feeling this year being an audience member as opposed to playing,” Miller said. “That definitely relieves a lot of the pressure, not having to worry about playing a set. But this year’s lineup was super fun and I’m glad the audience got a little bit more involved this time around. I hope that continues, I think it makes the whole show kinda come alive.”

As a Battle of the Bands veteran, Miller enjoyed seeing younger students step into his shoes.

“Seeing all the new bands was super exciting, more so than I expected,” Miller said. “Thinking about the last two years for me and the guys [of Daydreamer], I feel like we’ve come so far as a band. Every aspect of that has been really meaningful to me. I’m just glad that more people will get to have that experience.”

When the audience was calm, Miller said, he spent his time in the back of the theater, where he could best hear the sound. The mixing of the bands was clear and he could really feel the bass, which, as a bassist, Miller appreciated. But it was the audience involvement that really set this Battle of the Bands apart from the rest.

“I’m not sure what sparked it initially, but as soon as [second-place winner Henry Jewesson] started, everybody went nuts, jumping up and down and stuff,” Miller said. “It was fun. … Someone at some point bumped into me pretty hard from behind. I turned around to a bunch of my classmates bouncing around.”

While Miller and his peers moshed, the teachers attempted to keep the crowd under control.

“I’m pretty sure I overheard one of them say something like, ‘Reminds me of the ’90s,’” Miller said. “It’s fun to think about the teachers doing that kind of stuff when they were our age. I bet some of the faculty could seriously rock out.”

Caption by Lanie Sepehri. Photo by Julia Copas.

SPIRAL MAZE HITS THE STAGE: Sophomore Zane Shieh performs a song at the Battle of the Bands event on Thursday. Shieh is a guitarist and singer for Spiral Maze, a band that has been together for just over a year.

“I think the show went well,” Shieh said. “We all played good, there were a few goofs but that’s just a part of life.”

This opportunity provided Spiral Maze with experience on setting up and breaking down equipment quickly.

“I got to get a better feeling for setting up and breaking down,” Shieh said. “We had to deal with setting up in a place with a lot more speakers and PA stuff.”

In the future, Shieh is looking forward to growing as a musician and getting closer to the band.

“I think every gig and rehearsal we do brings us closer together,” he said.

Caption by Evelyn Jenkins. Photo by Maggie Mass.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on January 23, 2024.