It only takes one show. Just one show can turn an above-average local act into a band with something to shoot for, a band with a chance, a band with legitimate hope. A band with a future.
Last Friday, five bands competed for a spot on what could be “that one show” when the College Union Board (CUB) held a Battle of the Bands to determine the opening act for the April 16 concert featuring The Academy Is. and Copeland at Kendall Hall.
The judging panel, which was comprised of several Rathskeller co-chairs, a CUB member at-Large and Stephen Hunt, CUB event coordinator and recruitment chair, had its hands full with acts ranging from the overtly technical “shoe gazer” all the way to a pop-punk style that was eerily similar of The Academy Is. themselves.
“We’re looking for (an act) that will mesh with The Academy Is. and Copeland, something conducive to Kendall,” Hunt said.
Hunt and the rest of CUB found that act in The Embassy, an aggressive alternative-rock band comprised of two of the College’s seniors and two alumni.
“We’re gonna play a couple of songs about wolves for you,” Matt Morone, lead vocalist and secondary education/English major, said as the band kicked off its set.
The Embassy hooked the crowd with a combination of driving guitar lines, Morone’s low-key rough vocals and an interesting choice of song subject matter. While not strictly a concept band, Morone claimed the set played Friday was inspired by a news story about a feral child raised by wolves.
“A lot of the songs speak from the perspective of this feral child who is having problems readjusting to normal society,” Morone said.
Audience members bobbed their heads and tapped their feet to The Embassy’s catchy hook-filled songs, primarily the closing song, “New Wolves.” During a lull toward the end of the song, Morone spoke to the crowd and got them to join him in a slow clap before exploding back into the song’s chorus.
“This primal love will be, will be the death of me,” Morone crooned.
While The Embassy walked away with a spot on the coveted April 16 bill, it did face stiff competition from a Toms River-based pop-punk act called Endless Escape and the hard-hitting Head Traffic.
Although Endless Escape has only been together for three months, it was able to hold its simplistic song structures together and put on an energetic performance that included frequent jumps in the air between power chords.
Despite the high school atmosphere the band exuded, the Rat audience ate it up, showering the band with applause after every song. Endless Escape’s vocalist, Kaitlyn DiBenedetto, a 15-year-old from Toms River, was sporting a The Academy Is. T-shirt, clearly defining the obvious genre influences the songs portrayed.
Head Traffic, the fifth and final band to perform, stood at the opposite end of the musical spectrum from Endless Escape. The band juxtaposed vocal harmonies between its singer and bassist with gritty, heavy guitar and bass lines, creating an aura of controlled chaos that roped in some of the older members of the crowd.
With the band’s singer bounding across stage like some kind of wild animal and bassist Ryan Godleski, junior graphic design major, thrashing his head and whipping his beastly mohawk all over the place, Head Traffic looked like a violent thrash metal band while sporting a sound partially borrowed from the Deftones’ “Adrenaline.”
Two guitar-driven acts, Spot On and the duo of John Dutton and Eric Paulsen, entertained the crowd but were ultimately not what the CUB judges were looking for.
Spot On’s “shoe gazer” guitar stylings were simply not going to coexist on a bill with The Academy Is., while Dutton and Paulsen, despite being a talented acoustic folk/pop-rock duo, would have been suited to play with the subdued indie-rock of Copeland, but not a high-energy act like The Academy Is..
“I don’t think you need to be in the same genre to open for a band,” John Dutton, guitarist/vocalist and junior elementary education/math major, said. “Jason Mraz opened up for Bon Jovi, but whatever, music is music.”
According to Hunt, the final decision ultimately came between The Embassy and one other band, which he would not disclose.
“It was a tough choice, but ultimately we liked The Embassy’s solid transitions, audience engagement and high-energy performance,” Hunt said.
After the show, The Embassy’s Morone seemed both surprised and elated.
“We played here so much when we got the band together we said, ‘Maybe one day, we’d play Kendall,'” Morone said.
“I guess this wasn’t our last show,” Morone continued, alluding to an earlier declaration during the performance that Friday might have been the Embassy’s swan song.
The other members of The Embassy are Andrew Ferencevych, bass, Jason George, drums and College alumnus, and Mike Rabasca, lead guitar and also an alumnus.
Tickets are available for Monday’s concert at $10 each in Brower Student Center. There is a limit of two tickets per College ID.