Rock Out With Your Cause Out

Joel Bergstein

The Event

The Underground has been the venue for memorable performances at Carnegie Mellon, and the Battle of the Bands hosted by the brothers of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity (SigEp) added one more to the list. Co-hosted by WPTS, the University of Pittsburgh radio station, the night pitted six bands against each other in a winner-take-all classic shred-fest. The event included a variety of acts ranging from Heavy Metal to smooth Jazz, demonstrating a wealth of talent not only from Carnegie Mellon, but from surrounding universities.

The Charity

Much in the fashion of events such as Live Aid, Live 8, and Live Earth, music was fueled by a deeper cause than just rocking out. All proceeds from the event were donated to YouthAIDS, the official charity of SigEp. In 2005, YouthAIDS partnered with the national fraternity with the goal of creating AIDS/HIV awareness. Since then, SigEp chapters around the country have been hosting events targeted at raising money for the cause. Our campus’s chapter followed that tradition by having bands battle to raise the most money for the cause.

Judging comprised of three parts. Three judges scored each band from one to six (six bands battled it out that night), and each band was then ranked based on their combined score. The second part was audience voting. Audience members could purchase a ballot for $2 a piece and submit their vote. Finally, each band had a tip jar. Audience members could donate to the bands they liked, and the bands were once again ranked based on how much money they raised. All proceeds from ballots and tip jars went to the YouthAIDS charity. In total, the event raised over $300 – not bad for a first time event that Kwasi Mensah, the emcee, stated he hoped would run year after year from then on out.

The Bands

The first band to take the stage was Tennessee Whiskey, a Carnegie Mellon band that has performed at a variety of events around campus including SigEp’s Labor Day Barbeque and The Cut Magazine’s release party. The band put on a lively show getting the crowd fired up for the night. When the lead singer, Nathan Zoob, introduced the second song, he mentioned that it would feature a piano part and then remarked, “It’s cool--we can do that.”

Next up was Natasha and Friends. Featuring Jazz piano and saxophone, their set provided a break from the usual Rock riffs of your ordinary battle of the bands. Natasha Patamapongs showed off an impressive vocal range during their opening song, “Jingle Bell Rock.” They finished their set with a slow jam, leaving a packed house ready for something a little bit different.

The Meridians, a Punk Rock band from the University of Pittsburgh, also played, featuring a female vocal and guitarist. The band members jumped up and down on stage while the drummer twirled his drumstick in between beats. During Classic Punk Rock interludes featuring only three or four chords (sometimes that’s all you need), the audience clapped along as the femme-rocker moshed around, sending her hair all over her face.

Fourth in the order was The Glass Cube, the only band featuring all first-year students. They opened up with a cover of Our Lady Peace’s “Somewhere Out There.” The set was a selection of slower peaces featuring an eerie echoing guitar and heavy bass.

Last was Heavy Metal band Kelvera. James Forbes, lead singer for Kelvera opened their set by saying, “And now for something completely different.” The band broke into cacophony of Heavy Metal riffs, loud screaming, and head banging. The guitar solos were nothing to joke about as the band finished the set with a cover of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

And the Winner Is . . .

The final band, Wine & Spirit, featured a trio from Slipper Rock University. It turns out the trip down to Carnegie Mellon was worth it – the band not only provided a winning set for the packed crowd at the Underground, but also took home first prize. The band features Paul Joseph on lead guitar and vocals, Chris Taylor on guitar, Scott Morrison on the drums, and Derek Ruby on stand up bass. The band opened with “Spider’s Trap,” a quick paced song featuring skillful electric guitar. Their next song, “Sweet Mackenzie,” was a slower song written “for the ladies.” The band closed out with “Any Good News,” featuring a harmonica solo from Paul and an audience-captivating display when Paul stood atop the standup bass.

The band was formed when standing outside a liquor store, from which they got their name. According to the band, their influences include the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For those familiar with the band, it is apparent that The Living End has also been a strong influence, seen in the standup bass routine. They have toured anywhere their music was wanted, including destinations as far as Maine.

The band took home a $100 gift certificate to the Guitar Center, air time on WPTS, and of course the honor and respect of being a Battle of the Bands winner.

You can sample their music at their myspace page, which is highly recommended.