Monday, March 8, 2010

What rock competition? High Schoolers just want to have fun!

It has been almost three years since I last stepped foot into Athens High School, and that was my 2007 graduation. Out of sheer curiosity, the need for content for a feature article and Saturday boredom, I finally returned with my two siblings (who go to the school) and boyfriend to see how the then-freshmens are utilizing their last semester as impending graduates.

Battle of the Bands took place in the school's small auditorium. Its capacity pushes
somewhere along the line of 250, but seats were not needed for half the attendees. The whole event was set-up by the school's student council, so the emcees of the night were its two representatives. (My foggy memory renders me unsure as to exactly what positions.) As their between-sets introductions proved, this event was and has always focused itself on the current AHS students. Although poorly rehearsed (if at all), the students seemed to get them. This is also true with tonight's roster of performers, as once again, I felt out of the loop during certain instances of the night.

On the contrary, I don't see anything wrong with it, because thi
s was the most spirit-filled, enthusiastic Battle of the Bands I have ever seen. Seriously, where DID all this enthusiasm come from?! Each band, regardless of how good they were, managed to cover the floor with spectators. In return, the spectators flailed their arms, shamelessly sang along and pushed to the front to touch their classmate's hand and warm their hands in guitar solos. During the second half of the show, I grimaced every time a wave of bras catapulted their way on stage. I didn't want to know from WHO they came from, but I was in panic when one made its way towards me. There are two cops in patrol. I am an adult. I'd rather not deal with them at a high school event.

This entry would be novel-worthy if I went into every detail of the night. Some highlights include a "freestyle" rap interlude after The Remedy's cover of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So," in which awkward attention directed itself at the freshmen when half of the audience pointed and screamed, "Freshmen! Freshmen!" Two and Fro, the freshmen-filled second act, blew away everyone with their instrumental talent, taking on licks and solos of "Foxy Lady" by Jimi Hendrix and incorporating a classics-influenced original called "Baby, You're Smokin'." The metal-established act T.M.P. stole my wretched heart with an Iced Earth and Megadeth cover. It was also ladies night, as most took over the acoustic performances and played varieties from Paramore, The Veronicas, Taylor Swift and The xx.

Like the Athens' music scene, most bands performing that night shared band members. Some of the bands played to perfection, while others emulated the end project of practicing on Rock Band. The night capped off with the residential Andrew W.K. cover band "Who Knows?" They have an original called "Keep It Up," which was eerily similar to anything Andrew himself would have composed. After party-chants, a bursting piƱata filled with candy and Magic cards and an impromptu, experimental set, it was the funkified Mauve Avengers who took the first prize: four-track recording in the ACRN studio, plus a spot in an ACRN-hosted show.

-Rika Nurrahmah, Senior Writer

Friday, March 5, 2010

The First Street Heat lets the funk flow

I haven't been to many shows at The Union since arriving in Athens, but I feel like I've seen enough to guess what the crowd will look like. I expected (and eventually spotted) the indie kids in skinny jeans and plaid shirts, the girls glammed up to catch the attention of the lead singer, the bros with spiked hair who came to fist pump and the group I've always associated with in concerts: the apathetic metalheads wearing hoodies, with crossed arms and trained “even if this band doesn't suck, I will refuse to admit it” looks.

As time went on, I began to see people filter into the club that didn't
fit any of these stereotypes. I saw a girl sporting high heels, a perfectly-maintained afro and huge doorknocker earrings walk in immediately after a guy wearing a fedora and a bright red pimp coat. I questioned what kind of band I was seeing when at least three men rocking their best lounge singer gear entered. And I just didn't know how to respond when a guy in a chest-baring top that instantly brought “Jimmy Page in the late '60s” to my mind came in. Oh, and did I mention the guy in a purple pimp hat, which looked suspiciously like one that can be won at a county fair?

Turns out this was the band, The First Street Heat. They took the stage, but this was hardly a traditional four-piece. When they launched into their first song, I counted 10 people on stage, easily the most people I've seen performing on the cramped stage of The Union. Despite the sheer amount of sound coming towards the audience, The First Street Heat was always on-point. They warmed up the crowd with some funk, R&B and pop covers that had the audience jumping, drunkenly singing along to saxophone solos and generally enjoying themselves. The band covered Sugar Ray's “Fly,” and instead of laughing it off as a joke like the general population does to Sugar Ray, they waved their hands in the air and sang along to the chorus with the two vocalists.

The First Street Heat continued with excellent covers of Curtis Mayfield's “Move On Up” (you know, that song everyone knows because Kanye West sampled it?), Stevie Wonder's “I Wish” (you know, the song that everyone knows because Will Smith sampled it?) and even a few Bob Marley songs.

The set closed out with the band playing their originals, which ranged from reggae to ska-punk to a few jazz/rap tunes when they were joined on stage by a rapper who spit rhymes to the backing of a tight brass section. I'll admit that I'm a sucker for jazz rap, and they caused me to temporarily forget my role as a concert metalhead . So I really got into these songs by air-drumming, throwing my hands up, and generally looking like a fool. I didn't mind how I looked though. For those few hours, I saw music fans from all walks of life united in appreciation of a band bringing some very underrepresented genres of music to a tiny stage.

And to top off the night for me, right before The First Street Heat played their last song, a very intoxicated girl bumped into me and spilled a good portion of her drink onto my favorite white hoodie. One of these days, I have to remember to not wear anything that I want to keep clean to concerts.

-Travis Boswell, News Writer