Excited as we all may be about the impending arrival of Guster, we must take time to remember that three Yale bands will also be performing on stage at the Spring Fling. On Friday, April 20, Morse College hosted the Yale College Council’s annual Battle of the Bands in order to showcase talented Yale musicians and determine which bands would be given the opportunity to open for Guster.
As expected, Yale students put on an eclectic show, with performances by artists ranging from a rap-metal act to a musical comedy duo a la Tenacious D. Despite difficulties setting up the stage before the show, the concert began on time at 9 p.m. A moderate crowd made up largely of pre-frosh, friends of the bands, and the bands themselves gathered in front of the stage as the dining hall lights dimmed and the emcee introduced the first artist.
The show opened with Vote Gosar, a standard pop rock quartet with tunes along the lines of Blink-182. In addition to original material, Vote Gosar played a notable rendition of Weezer’s “My Name Is Jonas,” which functioned as both a source of nostalgia for alternative rock fans and a glimpse at the band’s influences. Although Vote Gosar was unquestionably a tight band of talented musicians, their range of songs was a bit narrow. Some of the songs they chose to perform prevented the band from fully demonstrating their musical capabilities.
Next came Jungle Portrait of the Artist, a satirical rock duo consisting of Matt Fogel ’02 on guitar and vocals and Dave Croke ’02 on triangle, and possibly drugs. While Matt poured out his soul in songs with earnest lyrics such as “my heart is red, but my balls are blue,” Dave aggressively pounded out his own version of rhythm on the triangle. Never has the triangle been played with such passion. Though not a conventional band, J.P.A. was one of the most entertaining acts all night, even taking time on stage to talk trash in improvised song form about one of the other contestants.
The Tourettes, calling themselves Yale’s only all-girl band, introduced their set with a mock telephone conversation poking fun at the notion that they “only got into this contest because they’re girls.” They then opened with an original called “Pants Fever,” which they were forced to play a second time when they realized they didn’t have enough material to fill their 25-minute time slot. Their sound relies heavily on surfer-style guitar riffs and the piercing vocals of the two lead singers. As a band, the Tourettes play well together, and they seem to have found their niche in the Yale music scene.
A sax-driven blues band called the Busters (formerly known as Electric Elvis Cocktail) followed the Tourettes. An otherwise unfortunate mishap early in their set actually resulted in an opportunity for the band to display their improvisational abilities. Guitarist Justin Cohen ’02 broke a string in the middle of a song and was forced to replace it after the song’s conclusion. With little delay, the drummer started up a rhythm, the bassist picked it up, and the talented saxophonist Amit Sachdeva ’02 played over the bass line. Soon enough, Cohen’s string was replaced and he stood up to join the rest of the band in their unanticipated jam session. In addition to their display of spontaneous composition, the Busters played an all-around good set.
The fifth group to perform was a Yale favorite: General Tso and the Tenderbites, a high-energy six-piece ska-rock band with a horn section. General Tso brought their own audience to the contest, including several shirtless students with letters painted on their chests. The entire audience was extremely receptive toward the band, enthusiastically applauding General Tso’s own arrangements of “Happy Together” and the James Bond theme. If there’s one thing the group has a knack for, it’s putting on an entertaining show for fans
Around 11 p.m., the rap metal group Nuts In Your Mouth brought couches and invited several ladies from the audience to serve as scenery for their performance. A DJ and an electric guitarist produced heavily distorted beats to accompany the two vocalists through a brief catalog of raps about bitches and such. At one point, the band passed a gigantic imitation bong through the audience in honor of the pot smoking holiday 4/20, and fans appeared generally amused by the antics of the band. But at times it seemed as though the band relied more heavily on their gimmicks than their material. Nonetheless, Nuts In Your Mouth were a colorful addition to the Battle of the Bands lineup.
Finally, Milo, another band popular among Yalies, finished off the night with an impressive display of musical talent. Consisting of a bass, drums and two guitars, Milo played a set of jam band grooves with an uncanny resemblance to Phish. Guitarist Talley Lambert ’03 even donned a long gown reminiscent of the mumu worn by Phish drummer Jon Fishman. Milo is truly a gifted group of musicians in search of their own sound, and the band should be watched closely by fans, especially those with jam band tendencies.
Shortly after Milo’s set the judges made their decision, and the emcee announced the winners. A slightly high-pitched cheer arose from the crowd when chick rockers the Tourettes were awarded third place. A voluminous round of applause emerged from the entourage as General Tso and the Tenderbites received second. The announcement of the Busters as the winner of the 2002 Battle of the Bands was greeted with a combination of scattered applause and surprise, as many of the fans in attendance had arrived too late to hear the group play. But all Yale music aficionados will have another opportunity to see the Busters, as well as the Tourettes and General Tso, when they warm up the stage for Guster at this weekend’s concert.
The order in which the Yale opening acts will play will be the reverse of their places in the Battle of the Bands. The Tourettes will be the first band to go on, followed by General Tso, and then the Busters. These three artists were chosen for the Spring Fling to represent the Yale music scene in all its creativity and virtuosity, and it is entirely possible that one of these bands will end up being the high point of the show.