Battle of the Bands and Why It Sucks

Art criticism by Echo Love

There's about a billion good reasons why this cesspool of an Institute should be dropped back into the Charles River muck from which it spawned, but the one I want to write about is Battle of the Bands. This annual display of unimaginative engineers attempting to play popular music is the funniest geek parade in America. Why in the blessed name of Jerry Lee Lewis do these losers insist on attempting to prove they are cool? Why can't they go back to masturbating in front of their Athena terminals while reading the SIPB minutes? Why do I give a rat's ass?

Okay, I can at least answer the last question.

Last spring I returned to Cambridge for the first time in four years. I had finally faced up to the evil of the Institute in my own way, by writing perverted, nauseating calumnies about the place. I felt much better about my undergraduate experience, so much better that I almost felt nostalgic, the key word being ``almost.'' Still, when these pathetic losers at work invited me to a night of bad beer and bland bands at Slobdell, I said sure, what the fuck.

My companions, whom we shall call Dick and Rod because those are their names, met me at the airport lounge in the Student Center. For those of you who don't know where this is, it's on the second floor, facing the Kresge lawn. You sit there thinking, ``shit, where did I put my boarding pass?''

Now, Dick and Rod are utterly worthless dweebs. They think Hootie and the Blowfish are cool, they thought Forrest Gump was deep, they drink light beer in moderation. Of course, they worshipped me like the goddess I am, which was okay for a while, but was getting old at the time. I could just see what they were thinking: ``gee, Echo is such a self-destructive, drunken, cynical slut because she hasn't met the right man, somebody caring and sensitive, somebody who isn't afraid to cry while watching the Lion King, somebody like me.'' Right, yeah, sure.

Since, I knew they were going to bore the shit out of me, I figured I would get roaring drunk, then go home with the first halfway cute Senior House loser I saw. Senior House losers are either incredible to fuck or boring as hell, but I was feeling lucky that night.

So, anyway, I went into Slobdell with Dick and Rod. They sat down somewhere to the right of the stage while I went out to get my first two beers. They were really yellow and really flat (I'm referring to the beers) but they only cost me a buck, so what the hell.

The two losers started hitting on me in their own pathetic nerdly way, while I entertained myself looking at the first band setting up. Now, you can tell everything you need to know about a band by how they are dressed, and these guys looked like they had just woken up in the back of a lecture hall. They wore sweatpants and sweatshirts in dorky colors like yellow and lime green. Even worse, they had tidy, boring, short haircuts. I knew they were going to be bad, it was only a question of how bad.

While they set up I remembered another reason MIT bands suck, they take forever to tune up. These buttplugs took a full fifteen minutes to tune up their two guitars (one electric, one acoustic) and bass. They only took fifteen minutes because they used one of those fancy-ass electronic tuners. Jesus, they hadn't been announced yet and they already pissed me off.

They eventually were announced and began playing. The first song they did was ``Take it Easy'' by the motherfucking Eagles. It is physically impossible to do a cool version of this song, and playing it note-for-note like these guys did should be illegal in the Commonwealth. But God bless Coors, I had to take a leak, so I was able to leave my lame-ass companions alone, grooving to the mellow sound of the Wankers, or whatever they were called.

I came back to the table a few minutes later, after writing nasty things about Paul Gray's manhood in the stall and picking up a couple more brews. The Monkey Spanks were in the middle of performing ``Uncle John's Band'' which reminded me of this great song I heard once on 'MBR (that's the beauty of 'MBR you only hear songs once) that went ``I hate the Grateful Dead/I'll be grateful when they're dead/I HATE/THE DEAD!''

``Hey Echo, aren't these guys cool?'' said Rod. ``No,'' I answered, ``they suck more than Michael Jackson at a Boy Scout Convention.''

They ended with a rocking cover of Elton John's ``Rocket Man.'' It is possible to do a cool cover of this song, but only if you are as shameless as William Shatner. Come to think of it, you can only do it if you are William Shatner.

It finally ended. Rod and Dick talked about how good they sounded and how they were definitely going to make the finals. Sadly, they were likely right.

The next band up showed another danger sign right of the bat. The guitar player was wearing an open dress shirt, his puny hairless chest bare for all to see. This look, just like V-shaped guitars, has never, ever been cool. Not only has it never been cool but you can mathematically prove that it will never ever be cool. Chestboy was not only the guitar player, but also the vocalist. Yes, it was the dreaded power-trio. Thank you Kurt Cobain, you stupid fuck, it was bad enough inflicting Courtney on us, but bringing power trios back was truly evil. Actually I'm being hard on Mr. Buckshot for Breakfast, since this is MlT after all and the blame should always lie with one group: Rush. The first song they did was a cover of Jimi Hendrix's ``Fire.'' I must say it's a cool song, but only when the three members of the group are playing it at the same time. The band was at least loud, and once you made sure not to look at Dork-Slash on guitar, they were pretty tolerable. But the solo came up, and the guitar god wannabe, full of the spirit of Jimi decided to play it with his teeth. Kids: take it from Echo, playing guitar with your teeth only works if it looks like you do it every day and it's no big deal. Even if you fuck up every single note, as long as it looks effortless it is cool. This guy looked like the guitar was attacking his wisdom teeth or like he was performing an act that is considered a felony in the State of Georgia. It was so painful to watch that I went out to take another leak.

I came back, beers-on-hands, after writing libelous accusations about the Office of the Arts on the bathroom wall. They were doing some lame classic rock crap when I came back. Rod and Dick thought they rocked. Finally they announced the last song. It was an instrumental. I couldn't figure out what it was until the weenies sitting behind us yelled it out:

`` Y Y Z !!!!! WOOOOOHHHHH!!!!!!''

Even more than Michael J. Fox, Rush is the anti-Elvis. Any band that writes an instrumental with a drum solo should be condemned to play State Fairs in Idaho for the rest of their lives.

It ended somehow. The night was a total waste, I thought to myself. There were only two bands left and I wasn't drunk enough to consider any guy there attractive, thanks to the fucking light beer they were serving. Having nothing better to do, I entertained myself by dissing my two companions. It was too easy for it to be fun, but there was nothing else.

The next band was a five-piece ``original'' band with cheesy Casio keyboards and an instantly annoying vocalist. The vocalist wasn't annoying in a Bob Dylan fingernailson-blackboards way (of course, I like Dylan, since he is an asshole). He was annoying in an Eddie Vedder/Billy Corgan God-It's-So-Hard-Growing-Up-In-The-Suburbs-Because-Your-Parents-Yell-At-You-And-Like-The-Bigger-Kids-Pick-On-You-Because-You're-A-Total-Weenie kind of way. They played loud, I will grant them that, but the keyboards and the overly dramatic tortured artist thing was a bit much. I wanted to go up there, smack the guy upside the head and yell ``YOU'RE A WHITE SUBURBAN PUNK, JUST LIKE ME! STAND UP STRAIGHT! GET A JOB! AND STAY AWAY FROM THOSE ROCKS!'' But again, it was light beer, so it wasn't doing shit.

I sat through the whole set, just so I could skip out between bands to take a leak. At least then I wouldn't have to talk to my two loser friends. I knew that since I had been pounding away beer after beer, they thought that they had a chance with me. Hell if the Atlantic turned a hundred proof there wouldn't be enough booze in the world to make me fuck either of them. But they always held out hope, just like Charlie Brown with that fucking football.

The last band was four guys and a Wellesley chick. They started by doing a Blondie song. It was getting to me, the futility of that night. No Senior House loser, no buzz, no good music, just me and these two dweebs who wanted to get in my pants. It was exactly like MIT had always been. It sucked a lot.

Rosy Palm and her Four friends did a couple of boring original pop songs, which she delivered as if they were ``Meaningful Statements About The World We Live In.'' Somehow my resentment was becoming focused on this band. They were evil personified. All the guys in the room were paying attention because the Wellesley chick was blonde, sensitive, sincere, cute and absolutely non-threatening. Which is the whole problem with Battle of the Bands, and by extension MIT student society, it rewards blandness. You will never see a real punk band play Battle of Bands, let alone make the finals. Only bands that tune their instruments after every song, play classic rock covers note-for-note and end with YYZ need apply. The whole place needed a high colonic.

The latent Natalie-Merchant-Syndrome of the singer broke free in the next song, which she introduced as a song about her cat. It was so insufferably precious I almost threw up. I had to get out of there fast. The song ended after four excruciating minutes. I should have made my move right there but I didn't. I had the sinking feeling that I had not seen the worst yet, and the experience would not be complete if I left early. After two harmlessly annoying songs they announced the last song. I was right, I hadn't seen the deepest pit of Battle of the Bands hell, because they played ``Like a Prayer.''

If there's one thing that can suck more than blandness, it is contrived rebellion, and that's what Madonna is all about. They even picked her most pretentious song ever. It was everything I had hoped for in terms of evil. I was morally justified in doing something about it.

Not wanting to be around Rod and Dick anymore, I made my move. But instead of heading towards the door I headed towards the stage. I jumped on, shoved the bimbo off the mike and screamed into it. The band stopped playing, the crowd quieted, I smiled, then yelled:


I tossed the mike stand into the audience, then ran like hell out of there.

Dick and Rod have not hit on me since.