A love of local music was in the air in the Student Union Ballroom at the first annual Battle of the Bands last Friday night. UConn’s talent was on full display to the audience as five groups competed to win the top title.
Each of the bands performed a 15-minute set to the crowd of about 200 students, after which the event’s three judges chose two groups to move on to the second round. After another performance from the top two, the audience voted for the winner, who would get the chance to open for the WHUS Spring Concert. The event was put on by the station and organized by sixth-semester anthropology and French double major Julia Pugmire.
“This concert was an idea that I had in the fall very shortly after I was hired here as an assistant,” Pugmire said. “They told me that, even though it wasn’t really my department, I could run a committee and get this thing off the ground, and it’s been a really exciting process.”
Five bands competed in the event: JR SPECS, Two Headed Girl, Homemade, Zebvlon and One Time Weekend. The only stipulation to compete was to have at least one current UConn student in the group, and each act was given about 15 minutes to perform a set for the audience and judges.
First up was JR SPECS, a UConn-based hip-hop artist. With him was a backing band consisting of a drummer, bassist, saxophonist and keyboard player. Throughout the set, each instrumentalist performed at least one solo. JR SPECS sang and rapped over the jazzy backing about childhood on “schoolbus,” among other tracks.
Two Headed Girl followed with a much harder sound. Named after the identical twin frontwomen, their set was high-energy with math rock influences, almost starting a mosh pit at one point. After performing three original songs, they finished their set with a cover of “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift.
Homemade brought a more traditional indie rock sound with their set. They also performed a cover, opening with a take on “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles. Composed entirely of UConn students, their performance featured a surprise trumpet performance by one of the guitarists.
The hardcore experimental rock ensemble Zebvlon performed next. After releasing an album in November, they came to the Battle of the Bands with two new songs to debut out of their four-song set.
Closing the first round was One Time Weekend, an alt-rock band based out of Connecticut. Fronted by a UConn student, their set featured a prolonged performance of “Dr. Funk” and a slick guitar solo.
Each band gave a great performance, but only two could move on. After a short intermission for deliberation, the judges came back with their top two picks: Two Headed Girl and One Time Weekend. Both groups were given an encore to perform one more time each. Two Headed Girl brought their drummer out from the drumset to close their second performance, and One Time Weekend jammed out once again.
After the second performances, the audience voted with Kahoot for their favorite of the two. By then, the crowd had thinned out a bit. The 102 voters crowned One Time Weekend as the victor.
The sense of community and intimacy of the performances was key to the success of the event. By requiring each group to have a UConn student member, each set felt more personal. One Time Weekend singer, bass player and eighth-semester digital media and design major Ian D’Arcangelo reflected on his band’s start after winning.
“We actually met in high school,” D’Arcangelo said. “We sort of knew each other through mutual friends and got together one summer and just started playing. We never stopped.”
Each group has a history in the local circuit. One Time Weekend has played at local spots like La Boca, Art Street Tavern, the Acoustic and Pacific Standard Tavern, according to D’Arcangelo. When asked if he would continue with the group after graduation, D’Arcangelo replied, “Absolutely.”
The event felt very close to the audience, as well. The audience was able to crowd up to the stage, and many felt pride for their fellow Huskies.
“[The] Connecticut scene has something special,” second-semester biology major Gustavo Colon said. “It’s more like a DIY type setting … Seeing all these people I know, it boosts me to make my own band and get up there. It’s a bit more intimate than other scenes. And even though a lot of people don’t get famous off of Connecticut music and stuff, there’s a lot of good musicians. I really appreciate all that.”
Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.