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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Rock ‘n’roll fantasy

As local lyricists and guitarists have battled over the mike for five weeks, some unlucky bands will be playing the blues as one is selected as the winner of MSC Town Hall’s Battle of the Bands competition. Weeks of live performances will culminate in three bands performing for the organization’s finale on Friday.
The final three bands – Plump, Claremont and Volume – will be contending for $500, instruments and free studio time.
Looking strung out from caffeine and cigarettes, Town Hall executive John Cramer said he is relieved but anxious about the finale of the annual event’s third year.
“Town Hall really wants to get College Station into the live music scene – as a community, we have the capability and the people who want a great music scene, but things haven’t taken off,” said Cramer, a junior sociology major. “We’ve been trying to find that ignition.”
In search of that spark, Cramer and the sub-committee fielded more than 30 applications, and the committee ranked applicants’ demo records. Demos were reviewed and scored on a common grading system.
“We wanted this to be as democratic as possible – the competition needed to be about talent shining through, not the musical tastes of the committee,” Cramer said.
With that in mind, Cramer picked a committee composed of members with eclectic musical tastes.
“I feel like the more music someone is exposed to, the better chance someone will find something that is meaningful to them,” he said. “The results (of the final three bands) provided a pretty diverse group. From one side, we’ve got the funk of Plush, a more indie rock sound from Volume and ambient rock from Claremont,” Cramer said.
Even with the emphasis on fairness, some bands were bitter about not being selected. Cramer said that with so many applicants, there were many bands that didn’t make the cut.
“Some got personal about it, acting like there was a conspiracy. They said things like ‘We didn’t make it because we’re too metal for Town Hall’ and other excuses,” he said.
Cramer dismissed the complaints, and said “quite a lot of hard rock was chosen, so the deciding factor was talent, not genre.”
Grumbling during selection wasn’t the only problem facing the Battle of the Bands competition.
Cramer said that in the beginning, bands didn’t show up on time, some band members would be missing and there was general bad communication. Even with six sub-committee members, Cramer said he was spending in excess of 20 hours a week on the events.
Whittled down from the original submissions, the selected 15 bands performed in groups over five weeks.
“Sets were the same, the location was the same (Rudder Fountain), the equipment was the same and the scoring criteria was the same,” Cramer said.
“Battle of the Bands mixed the judges into the audience, so the band wasn’t playing just for the judging. We wanted them to put on a normal set and not be distracted or change their routine,” Cramer said.
Plump drummer Doug Payne seemed thrilled about coming back to A&M.
“For us, we’re trying to play for the students as much as possible,” Payne said.
Event turnout has been impressive, Payne said.
“We were driving up from Houston and it was like 55 degrees, and we were talking about whether anyone would be there,” he said. “But it was really great how many people showed up.”
Payne said its Battle of the Bands experience was better this time around than in the past.
“The very first gig we ever played, almost three years to the date, was a Battle of the Bands event. It was in a bar, on a Tuesday night, and the ‘voting’ was the crowd cheering,” he said. “Basically the bar just wanted to get people in on a Tuesday – and needless to say, we didn’t win.”
Town Hall chair and senior communication major Gabe McNatt said he is proud of this year’s Battle of the Bands.
“John and his committee have gone out there and done a great job,” he said.
He said one of the keys of Town Hall is for the execs to do it bigger and better than previous years.
Cramer and McNatt are quick to credit Town Hall adviser Dave Salmon as being the heart of Town Hall. “So much wouldn’t be possible without him,” McNatt said.
McNatt believes the Battle of the Bands benefits the long-term goals of the University.
“As chair, we’ve looked at Vision 20/20 and the higher priorities of the school. Music plays a huge part of encouraging diversity and representing the arts on campus,” he said. “Some people might discount a student group that puts on music, but there’s a workload involved – we do everything: find bands, set up sound and do a lot to keep things running all while representing Texas A&M.”

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