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Live Local Music

Who are the Battling Bands?

Posted by Matt D'Ippolito on 03/30 at 10:02 AM

Movin’ On is less than a month away, so it must be that time again: time for the Battle of the Bands!

This year’s battle will feature 12 acts. There are a lot of folk-influenced groups competing, which is probably fitting considering one of the headliners is The Avett Brothers. Still, the lineup includes a house and dubstep DJ in Keegan Tawa, a first for Movin’ On Battle. There are also acts as diverse as ska and the ever-popular rock/reggae/hip hop fusion of Atlas Soundtrack. Here’s more information on each, in the order they will appear:

Dave Joyce and the Slow Pitch Band: These guys have something of a southern rock kind of feel with Tom Petty-esque vocals and twangy instrumentals. You may have heard them playing covers at the bar scene or THON. Admittedly, the only original by them that I’m familiar with is “Where You Going,” which you can listen to on their Facebook page.

Atlas Soundtrack: Need I even say anything about State College’s most well-known local band? Their brand of multi-genre music will pump the crowd up, as I’m sure any follower of the local music scene knows, and give the other bands a run for their money. From the reggae beats of “Bad Seed” to the heavier rock feel of “Wassup,” with Drew “Dubb” Jackson’s mad MCing skills, they’re clearly a frontrunner.

One Shot Nicky: Gotta love a band whose name is a Deer Hunter reference. Preferring to describe themselves as “folkrockcountrypunk,” One Shot Nicky has a bluesy folk rock style with rough, wailing vocals from frontman Alex Pianovich. They’re coming off their debut album with another in the works. Give “Stone Awake” and especially “Andalusia” a listen on their Band Camp page. You won’t regret it.

Crooked Oaks: One of the many folk bands on this list, Crooked Oaks’ songs are very folky with vocals that border on country.

Free Rollercoaster: Are you ready to chill on a beach or maybe by a campfire? If so, then this is your band. They’re really, really into their ukuleles. This relaxed folk music is very soothing, especially their demo, “Going Under.” After first hearing it, I thought, if that’s what their demo track sounds like, I can’t wait to hear more from them live. “Down on the Road,” on the other hand, has a spaghetti western south of the border feel to it. We’ll find out if they’re as good live as they sound recorded.

Brethren: This folk act is different from the others in its much fuller sound. The guitar is given greater presence and the harmony is powerful, especially in the background “oooohs” in “Every Lonely Word.” Songs like “Saving Light” demonstrate their much more upbeat and assertive sound than listeners have become accustomed to in popular indie folk bands.

Element of Surprise: This acoustic indie pop band sticks to the safe formula of simple vocal hooks over acoustic guitar, often featuring a vocal musical dialogue between their male and female singers. Songs like “Tonight is All We Need” should prove to be mellow crowd-pleasers. I’m not a fan of their style of music, but if you’re looking for some laid back, relaxing music, give a few of their songs a listen on their MySpace.

Hustle the Nobles: Their sound is somewhere between pop punk and a sort of dance rock, which will certainly be popular with the audience. They might sound familiar to those who frequent the Dark Horse. “To Have Each Other” has a distinct rocking out feel, while “Progress” is a more laid back jam. They’ll probably put on a good live show.

Flashback Forward: I wrote about this group of rising stars earlier this semester. They’ve been picking up a lot of gigs at the Dark Horse lately with their version of rock ‘n’ roll, though they don’t like to be labelled. They know how to have a good time, and that should translate well to the audience. They can vary their style significantly, from the hypnotic “Surrender” to the driven “Nineteen” (stylized: XIX), a straightforward hard rock piece, they can own the stage when they want to.

Wondershop Showdown: What would a Battle of the Bands be without a ska band? Another band that has played gigs at the Dark Horse, Wondershop Showdown is all about putting on a fun show, having picked up the State College ska mantle where Some Downtown Avenue left off. An aggressive Streetlight Manifesto influence is apparent in their music, though stylistically they’re probably closer to Catch 22 or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. This nine-piece band draws on a variety of influences and has even featured Atlas Soundtrack’s MC in their shows. They’ll definitely pump up a crowd.

Michael and the Mooncussers: Previously known as Ebenezer, this band is a folk rock group with a modern pop/electronic tinge thanks to a buzzy synth included on songs like “Boy You’re Strange!” What starts out as electrosynth over the acoustic guitar stylings in “Oh Yeah” becomes soulful organ later on. These guys definitely have one of the most unique sounds on this list. Think Blues Traveler meets Dave Matthews and invests in a synthesizer and some digital sound editing classes.

Keegan Tawa: His music is all about the heavy dance beats. A quick listen down his SoundCloud page will provide you with a few sweet party tunes, like “Sunrise in Blue” and “Seven Billion Hearts.” His song “Love & Hate” sounds like it could’ve been ripped from a club scene in a dystopian future film, while “Massive Dynamic” is very danceable, if a little harsh.

There are only two spots open for local bands at Movin’ On this year, instead of the usual four. Atlas Soundtrack, who secured a spot at Movin’ On last year, is definitely a strong candidate and will likely take one of the places again. Tawa’s music is all pretty cool, but not incredibly impressive. If he wins a spot at Movin’ On, it will be because of a yearning for EDM at the festival that the student body has been voicing for a couple of years now. Free Rollercoaster has a great sound, but students will want bands that can pump them up with a bright, exciting sound, especially with a laid-back folk group already headlining. Wondershop Showdown definitely has a shot because, as a ska band, they have an exciting, driving sound. Whether or not they are strong enough performers to make it is questionable. The same goes for Hustle the Nobles.

Flashback Forward and One Shot Nicky both have the exciting, fun sound that students are looking for, as well as the strength and confidence to seal the deal. Along with Atlas Soundtrack, both are strong frontrunners. If any other bands win, I will be surprised and a little disappointed. If it isn’t already obvious, my picks are One Shot and Flashback. One Shot Nicky can own a stage. Flashback Forward can clearly rock out and have fun with their songs. If they amp up their stage presence, they’ll be a lock.

So come out to Alumni Hall Saturday night and cheer on your favorite bands. It will definitely be a fun night.

{name} Author: Matt D'Ippolito
Bio: Matthew D’Ippolito is currently a senior majoring in print journalism at Penn State with minors in political science and music technology. He plans on writing for Rolling Stone or Variety one day. Matt enjoys reading, playing sax, hiking and fishing. He enjoys a wide variety of music, but some favorites are punk, indie rock, classic rock, dubstep, jazz and classical. His favorite bands at the moment are Titus Andronicus, Streetlight Manifesto, Cloud Cult, Explosions in the Sky and ZOX.


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