BACKER: Save Battle of the Bands

I’ve been in a band at Yale for four years and it has not always been the easiest way to spend my time. The alternative (for lack of a better word) music scene is small and it is frustrating to fight to get a handful of people to your shows. All the while, you watch your classmate’s plays and a cappella jams fill auditoriums.

But there has always been one day of the year when the campus at large pays attention to the alternative music scene: Spring Fling.

At Spring Fling, three student bands open up the show and entertain their highly inebriated classmates while the sun shines on Old Campus. These opening slots are the crown jewels of the alternative music scene. These bands play at an event that our peers want to attend, rather than one in a basement blocks away from the center of campus or a bar with a cover charge.

Traditionally, the opening slots for Spring Fling have been chosen through WYBC’s Battle of the Bands. This has always been a great event. All of Yale’s bands squeeze under one roof and play their hearts out for a chance to win an opening spot. I’ve seen bands play amazing sets over the years at BOTB; I remember Jamestown bringing down the house, A Street Car Named Funk getting the whole crowd dancing, Nathan Campbell standing on his head doing bicycle kicks with Sister Helen, 9 Tigers putting on one of the most unhinged, guitar kicking, face painted sets I’ve ever seen. The event is usually judged by a panel including a few music professors, a member of WYBC and a member of the Yale College Council Spring Fling Committee.

This year, however, it was announced that instead of the Battle of the Bands, the opening slots for Spring Fling would be decided by online voting. I emailed some of the members of WYBC to find out what was going on. YCC made the call, I was told; they had decided online voting was better. I encouraged WYBC to protest that decision and after some back-room deliberation it was decided that the Battle of the Bands could decide one opening slot for spring fling: the earliest slot, the slot that used to be for third place.

This arrangement is wrong.

First, this arrangement has made the process of choosing the Spring Fling openers into a popularity contest. It is not the best band that puts on the best show that will get the slot, but the band with the most members who can rally the most votes. Voting, in addition, is not even Yale-only, opening the possibility of recruitment of family and high school friends to boost their numbers.

Second, it makes the Battle of the Bands relatively irrelevant. While WYBC has offered studio time as a prize and many bands will play because any show is a fun show, the stakes have been lowered considerably.

Third, and most importantly, it undermines the cultural currency of WYBC on campus. WYBC is one of the few organizations on campus that tries to support Yale’s alternative music scene; they organize shows, they do publicity and they run the Battle of the Bands. Taking away the Spring Fling opening slots from WYBC is taking away what is arguably their most visible moment of the year — and amounts to a slap in the face to the organization and the bands that they champion.

I’m sure YCC had reasons to nix the Battle of the Bands. Maybe Sister Helen’s unfortunate last minute dropout last year encouraged them to change the rules. Maybe they were frustrated that the process wasn’t as streamlined as online voting. Maybe they just didn’t realize the consequences of what probably seemed like a minor change in rules. I don’t really know, and honestly I don’t really care. Save the Battle of the Bands! It’s a great event, and a far fairer way to decide who gets to play Spring Fling. I hope that, in the long run, this year is seen as a bizarre experiment and not the year that Battle of the Bands started to fade.

Jacob Backer is a senior in Morse College. Contact him at jacob.backer@yale.edu .

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