Volume 91, Issue 72

Thursday, February 5, 1998



Battle of the band bandits

By Dan Yurman
Gazette Staff

Following in the footsteps of the great battles of history, the Fine Arts Festival's Battle of the Bands was held at the Wave on Tuesday. And while each band brought their own unique style, they were all fighting for the same spoils of war – a fully recorded, mixed and mastered six-song EP to call their own.

The first band to charge the stage was Plumcake Ceremony. Influenced by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Tool, this energetic power trio was led by lead guitarist and vocalist Kevin Grover, who's Jimmy Page-style guitar and Kurt Cobain-sounding voice gave his band a great sound. The real driving force behind Plumcake Ceremony, however, was provided by bassist Chris Lewis. His slap bass ability was fantastic and the deep sound of his bass gave Plumcake Ceremony its sweet sound.

The second band to battle it out was Grassy Knoll Assasins. This hard rock foursome relied on its humourous lyrics (one of their songs is entitled "Jerry Springer") and original sound to give it the competitive edge. While these worked well, it was lead guitarist Mike Hamer's psychedelic sound that shined. Citing Pink Floyd and blues guitarists as his influences, he was able to distort his guitar and create a very appealing sound.

After the Assasins shot off the stage, Elenor's Chair sat in the spotlight for a set. Armed with two singers, this power trio used them quite effectively, letting upbeat and whimsical lead vocalist Chris Egan begin the show, then allowing dark and mystical lead guitarist Pat Talmer to exercise his vocal chords. This contrast in moods worked well and allowed the audience to experience both sides of this talented band.

When Elenor's Chair got up to leave, Bomb 32 dropped onto the stage. This Rage-Against-The-Machine-style band brought with it the key ingredient to success in battle; experience. They were as professional as they were talented, with lead vocalist Matt Kinna engaging the audience in callbacks, providing them with some comedy in between songs, refering to his band as the "Spice Boys" and generally exhibiting a great rapport with the crowd. The band was also very aware of their own appearance, providing a wide esthetic spectrum. Kinna, whose appearance was marked with a shaved head and a metal chain dangling from his waist, was countered with bassist Richard Humpartzoomian's conservative look, clad in slacks and a collared shirt. They appealed to everyone in the crowd and the applause they received at the end of their set verified this.

The next band to wage war at the Wave was Skyfish. Their secret weapon, a female singer, was a welcome change to the show. Jessica Lovett, the band's pianist and vocalist, played with the grace and talent of her influences Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell and the Indigo Girls. Her keywork was nicely backed up by a power trio with a folky sound that is rarely heard but much appreciated. Skyfish's Dylan-Dire Straits sound was innovative and refreshing, putting the audience on cloud nine.

After Skyfish was sent swimming, the mood went from folk to funk as Ground South took front and centre. This '70s funk band influenced by James Brown and Jamiroquai, was fashioned with the saucy '70s sounds of guitarist and vocalist Eric La Marche and a be-boppin' brass section composed of a saxophone and a trumpet. While the band's songs contain very few lyrics, Mark Lynch's saxophone spoke volumes and got most of the bar up boogying.

When Grand South went north to the bar, the final act of the evening towed the front line. Strange Bargain, who were, without a doubt, the most energetic of the acts, took the audience on a virtual roller coaster, mixing the Steven Tyler-esque, demon-of-screamin' vocals of guitarist Ben Wilson with the strange, goofy and crazy antics of bassist and brother Matt. Their style and presence was unmatched, especially with their funkadellic cover of a tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar.

Unfortunately for all these terrific bands, in a battle there can only be one winner and that was Bomb 32. All in all, it was a spectacular night where each band fought hard, played hard and most of all, partied hard.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998