Fun in Pforzheimer



Pforzheimer House

Saturday, April 11

The last time a Harvard organization hosted a Battle of the Bands was two years ago, and the junior-high school event was quite the washout. About 30 people showed up (besides band members) in Paine Hall, the musical groups showcased were a struggling herd of piecemeal talent, and never once did the evening achieve the spark that graced last weekend's Pforzheimer Battle.

In the chintzy $100-a-night hotel decor of Pforzheimer's dining hall, six bands brilliantly performed for a crowd of more than 100 contented students and passersby. Did the considerable turnout signal a trend of greater student awareness of the campus' creative music offerings? The Pforzheimer show was a success and it did a good job of highlighting deserving student pop music groups, but it didn't convincingly represent a significant movement toward exposing the scene for what its worth. If the large audience was a response to the talent of the participating bands, why don't more than just close friends know about these talented groups?


One of the current reasons for this lack of awareness is that Harvard doesn't offer enough opportunities to flaunt the amazing talent of rock, pop, hip-hop and funk musicians that keep the underground music scene on this campus alive and kicking. Too many concertos and a capellas create a dry and predictable stereotype undeserving of the Harvard music scene. It's time to break out of the traditional mold and invest time and money into these fruitful, burgeoning musical prospects called student bands.

SpringFest is a great example of how Harvard misuses a wonderful opportunity to publicize student bands. With all the talk over getting a brand name every year, the Undergraduate Council side-steps the possibility of using the potential of student music to galvanize the campus. Music is supposed to be the universal language we can all identify with, right? Even more significant to campus life, music from student peers is important in any attempt to revive this school's undernourished spirit. As a student body, we sadly don't support the foundations of campus pop music. Highlighting our talent, showcasing our peers, dancing to the grooves that we can call our own should be the ultimate goal.

As the Battle of the Bands showed, students don't need Chumbawamba or Sister Hazel and a beer in tow to enjoy themselves. Each band tapped into something different but always something visceral. There were hands clapping along to the grassroots rock of the Voodoo Crabs, chuckles and pointed fingers abundant during Depeche Mode, limits tested by the dense sonic experimentation of This Is My Rifle, emotions wrangled by the sugary-sour pop treat offered up by Blue Wail. The winner of the friendly compe- tition, the extraordinary B-Side, got the crowdon its feet with smart, effortless freestyle rapand a tight groove bound to get anyone withinhearing distance excited.

With so many great bands, and the Battle onlyrevealing a selected glimpse at what the studentpopulace has to offer, why shouldn't there be morelive pop music events occurring in places likehouse dining halls and common rooms or otherappropriate spaces on campus? Students should helporganize events and attend those that others havetaken time to put together. Cut loose from thetraditional Harvard party or classical musicgig--there are only so many you can endure.

The Pforzheimer House committee deservesmention for arranging an evening with a diverseline-up of groups and making sure the eventproceeded smoothly. Maybe other HoCos will followPforzheimer's lead and gain an interest inattracting an underrepresented musical crowd oncampus into their house. All it takes is a stage,some microphones and a few hours of your time.

In contrast to the Currier Ten-Manbump-and-grind raging on across the street, thePforzheimer Battle of the Bands ventured to exposean original display of musical talent to an eageraudience. The show opened up with theharmonica-wielding Voodoo Crabs, an organic rockband complete with a reservoir of superchargedenergy that overshadowed such drawbacks as afailing trumpet and a shameless prance around theaudience by the lead vocalist. The Voodoo Crabs'exuberance was most likely what earned them thirdbest performer of the evening honors, although thegroup did not deserve the designation. Theharmonica solo during "Perched" was the shininghighlight of the set, but nothing else was toocaptivating. Despite giving a good show andgetting the audience lazily bopping along, theVoodoo Crabs was not the most impressive band ofthe evening.

Moving on over to the silkier realm of the popworld, Blue Wail was blessed with a good vocalshowing but was stricken by the same dearth oforiginality as the Voodoo Crabs. Except for thesparkling "Island," a well-crafted, smooth andheartfelt selection under-appreciated by theaudience, the band showed that it needs to work onmaking its sound more unique.

Next up was the David Lewis Funk Band jammingout on a few covers of songs by such jazz greatsas Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Overall, theLewis Band was a mixed bag: the trumpet andsaxophone players were smooth and swank, thekeyboard player tried too hard to be hip, and theelectric guitar performance was the best effortfrom anyone in the group. Though the Lewis Bandwas enjoyable and coherent, it did little to rileup the listeners.

B-Side quickly remedied the situation and couldpossibly be the panacea for any level of boredomor depression. Kicking the audience into actionwith a cool pairing of freestyle rap and funk,B-Side infused the Pforzheimer dining hall withmood melody like it had never experienced before.Key to B-Side's performance were the sleekstylings of the Rhodes keyboard player, the punchytones of the upright bass and the drivingexactness of the percussionist, all infused with afreestyle rap intuition that few groups can calltheir own.

Although B-Side had the right combination oftalent and accessible groove, Depeche Mode (notthe original or a cover band) tapped into asuperficial vein of youthful kiddieness thatB-Side could never duplicate. Setting the roomablaze, Depeche Mode provided the perfectcomplement of frenetic entertainment to the othergroups' down-to-earth nature. With twosynthesizers, a spastic guitarist/vocalist deckedout in Ramones style, a deft percussionist,dancing feet and techno lullabies titled"Sardines" and "Depeche Mode is Not for You,"Depeche Mode was a necessary comic relief thatdeserved third place in the judging.

The night finished up with an onslaught ofnoisy hardcore, samples and a distorted/amplifiedbaritone saxophone courtesy of This Is My Rifle.As the members of the band stepped on stagedressed in fake blood-stained lab coats andfrighteningly comically painted clown faces, theaudience knew this band was going to be like noother at the Battle. At first, Rifle sounded likean impenetrable wall of sound, but soon it wasapparent that complex layers of noisy melodyundergirded the deathcore exhaust with bitterintelligence. Guttural growls and digital snippetswere laid upon distorted sax honks, schizophrenicbass lines and chunky guitar attacks, all makingfor a healthy dose of electric chaos

Recommended Articles