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MIT Bands Battle at Tommy Doyles

By Lillian Yu, Crimson Staff Writer

The weather was nippy outside last Saturday night, but a large crowd had weathered the cold to gather inside of Tommy Doyle’s for the MIT portion of Rockus, a musical battle royale organized by Veritas Records and sponsored by Rolling Stone. Veritas Records President Caitlin V. Crump ’10 is convinced that it will produce the next big band.

MIT, Tufts, Emerson, Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, and the Berklee College of Music each have its own night of competition in which one winner from each college emerges. It is these winners who collectively go on to compete in a Boston-wide battle. Such a high-stakes event promises a wealth of rewards for the eventual winner: $1,000 worth of merchandise from Rolling Stone, a feature on Rolling Stone’s website, a CD release party at Hard Rock Café in the fall, and a three-song demo with a top recording studio in New York City.

There were four contestants for this portion of the competition: SupaDupa, The Pears, Pesticide Red, and Fortran. Each band possesses a unique energy that it brings to its live show. According to several fans, these four groups are at the core of the MIT band scene. Dan Ainge, one of the organizers of the event, describes the MIT music scene as “small, since not a lot of people have time for bands.” But despite the intimacy of the scene, there was considerable fan support.

For the bands, however, it seemed to be all about having fun.

Jacob McGrane, the bassist of Pesticide Red, was simply excited to play with the other three bands. The other members of Pesticide Red agreed; for them, Rockus is just another concert, and they were more concerned with having a good time than with who wins the title. David Aaronson, a former organizer for the MIT Battle of the Bands, said he looks forward to “learning the state of the MIT music scene.” Like the bands, Aaronson was more interested in the music than in the competition.

The camaraderie of the four groups was far more apparent than any agonistic spirit. “We used to play together all the time, so it’s nice to come back and play with these guys now that we’re all much better,” said Jonathan Krones, the bass guitarist from The Pears. Nobody appeared concerned about who won; it was simply about good music and good friends.

SupaDupa took the stage first, and its colorful costuming (each member is dressed in a different color of the rainbow) matched their retro musical style. A crisp trumpet threaded many of their songs, and they used several less conventional instruments, such as a cello and an accordion. The songs were enchantingly upbeat, and SupaDupa clearly enjoyed themselves as much if not more than the audience.

The Pears were next. The sheer enthusiasm and energy of their performance galvanized the audience. They transitioned seamlessly from one song to the next, and a sea of heads bobbed to the beat. It was apparent to all that each individual band member, especially drummer Balaji Mani, were exhilarated to be there. Mani was all smiles throughout the performance as he mouthed the lyrics while drumming exuberantly

Meanwhile, the bands not performing could be found in the audience, where they showed spirited support.

Pesticide Red, the next band, brought a louder voice to Rockus. In an interview before their performance, band members described themselves as “pirate gypsy rock.” There was also talk of pant-less practice jams in dorm halls. This jocular attitude translated into a fun performance that was classic punk rock.

Fortran was last. Vocalist Carrie McDonough added a distinctive voice to their music, and even kept a facetious conversation with the audience between sets. Before their performance, the drummer, who identified himself simply as Okie, described the band’s music as “petrified rock.” Their music was certainly crisp, but it was their individualistic performance (more conversational than theatrical) that intrigued the audience.

With no fanfare, as the bands would have wanted, The Crimson hereby reports that the Pears ultimately nabbed the prize that night, and they will go on to compete at the final “battle” on April 14 at The Paradise in Boston. A publisher from Rolling Stone is slated to judge, which is, according to Crump, unprecedented. She also notes that top-notch managers from major labels will attend, though she keeps their identities secret.

Harvard bands will take the stage this Saturday night at 8:30 in Tommy Doyle’s. Tickets are sold out, but Crump stresses that fans will be able to get in at 10 p.m. Whether Harvard’s night will be a true battle royale (in typical Harvard fashion) remains to be seen.

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