Battle of the bland at Clark
Repetitive De Rigeur trumps Living Planet
Concert Review: QEA Battle of the Bands @ Clark Hall Pub, March 29
Of all the concert bills to make you re-think your spending tendencies and grudgingly decide to stay at home, wallowing in self-pity while watching a late-night broadcast of Tomb Raider, a campus battle of the bands wins with ease. Stereotypes run amuck when contemplating the sabotage of a perfectly fine weekday night: bad music, musicians in an identity crisis, entourages screaming idiotically and more bad music.
Fortunately for the eyes and ears of all involved, QEA’s Battle of the Bands provided a slight trace of hope and, most importantly, enough alcohol to douse the pain.
Kicking off the evening with enough repetition to make Angelina Jolie’s spelunking escapades seem like highbrow entertainment was Sargasso Sea. To be fair, this group had a good lead guitar and—well, that was it.
After flatlining with dull riffs in their first number, the interesting introduction of a banjo in their second tune was quickly negated by the repetition of the lyric, “I will be lost, you will be found,” which is either terrible writing or a lament on the hiking trip from hell.
When all else fails, turn to Bachman-Turner Overdrive. When that fails, and it looks like assorted vegetables will soon be whipped violently on stage, turn to the “Ghostbusters” theme.
Like any intelligent amateur rockers, Sargasso Sea heeded these rules in their attempt to win over the audience, but, to the crowd’s credit, not even cheap covers of incredibly overplayed ’80s tunes could stir them.
Bringing a welcome change of pace were Living Planet—a group who, if I had my way, would have unanimously won the title.
With a large ensemble including saxophones, a keyboard, rhythmic guitar and a whole bunch of instruments whose names I can’t pronounce, this band was hands down the most talented and energetic of the competition. The two lead singers bounced smooth lyrics back and forth while their ska-funk melodies jived, pulsated, and even had the audience singing along at one point. At the very least, they win points for not being another imitative rock band. Their sound has an organic groove, combining spirited funk with soulful rock.
Orchestrated for enjoyment, Living Planet holds your attention—they’re artful with their instruments, they have fun on stage, and they know how to work a crowd.
No band is without its flaws, and they could do with a few stand-out melodies to break up their sound, but as far as novelty, talent, and energy go, Living Planet has it all. They’re pleasantly catchy, undeniably rhythmic and able to appease music fans from all genres.
Mass of Distraction, who share two members with Living Planet, had the unenviable duty of following that tough act. Like Living Planet, their talent is undeniable, but it seems that their skill trumps their songwriting. Their sound is channeled into patterns, resulting in jazz-rock vibrations better suited as background music for classy functions than as a concert set to hold your attention. Playing for yourselves rather than the audience, especially in a battle of the bands scenario, makes a set lag, regardless of decent tunes and obvious instrumental skill.
Cedar Speeder, a trio dressed in Boy Scout clothing who were a little over-reliant on anecdotes, played fourth.
Indie rock lovers were satisfied by the appearance, although likely not the skill, of this band. Even to musical dilettantes with no concept of tone, the singing duo of Cedar Speeder is painfully flat. Their rock rhythms are laced with vocals that are never on pitch and their up-tempo guitar riffs are lost in a lack of vocal and instrumental diversity.
Not even a weak attempt at humour with the pushy chorus line “Taliban terror rock” can save them—typical three-man band syndrome.
The two acts that followed Living Planet, though they made suitable attempts, were overshadowed by the melodies of the funky rock-hop group, adding to the list of reasons why this band should’ve taken the crown.
Unfortunately, factory-processed rock seems to own any battle of the bands title, and the Queen’s Entertainment Agency did little to avoid this stereotype.
De Rigeur took the fifth and final slot at the Battle of the Bands, eventually taking home the QEA honours as the best musical group on campus with their eclectic rock (and eclectic spelling, as the expression should actually be spelled “de rigueur”).
The problem with this decision is not so much talent-based, nor is it with the decent set that was performed—it’s with the lack of diversity that this group adds to the mix.
Their instrumental opening tune was respectable, though slightly overdone, and their subsequent numbers were packed with catchy tunes and lyrics that aren’t overbearingly repetitive. They had decent vocals, differing sounds, and songs that could get stuck in your head—enough to please any Oasis fan.
Despite this, De Rigeur seem to be, in all aspects, fundamentally generic. It’s the sound you expect at a campus battle of the bands—the imitation and remodeling of success.
With this choice, QEA appears to have gone with the conventional option: the group that looks, sounds, and acts like a “real” band rather than seriously considering originality and talent.