On Tuesday, Oct. 1, Emerson’s student-run record label, Wax On Felt, hosted its annual Battle of the Bands in the Cabaret. The contest is open to both Emerson bands and colleges in the surrounding area. Immersed in the ambience of a colorful light show and old-school pop-punk anthems, the musty smell of sweat and perfume filled the room as students filed in by the dozens.
Once the competitors took the stage, a professionally produced and stylistically eclectic assortment of live musical performances entertained the crowd for hours on end with six incredible acts. The stakes were high as each artist performed in hopes of winning the audience’s votes and competing for prizes, including recording time and promotional assistance from Wax On Felt.
Boston-based “funkcore” group Juneva’s heavy sound led to the formation of the only mosh pit of the entire show and earned the band first place in the battle, including a free full-length album recording with Wax On Felt. From lead vocalist Paul Buonomo’s killer range to the band’s professional-grade stage presence, their entire performance was well-received.
“[Juneva] had the best energy,” said Nick Levesque, a freshman visual and media arts major who attended the battle. “Some bands had lulls or dull moments in their set, but there was none of that in theirs.”
Juneva’s bassist, Johnny Capece, responded to the win, saying “[the battle] was really cool, there were a lot of people there, and I had no idea what to expect, but a lot of people really responded to our performance.”
Now, their future album presents its own set of challenges.
“We still have writing to do,” said Buonomo. “We weren’t 100% sure going in if we were going to win.”
“One of our main goals now is to hammer down the material.”
Emerson’s own Chris Collins, a freshman marketing communication major from Cohasset, Mass., kicked off the battle with an energetic, captivating rap performance. Despite being the only rap act on the lineup, Collins held his own. He engaged with the audience throughout his entire set, making sure everyone in the room was entertained, and he took second in the battle.
“I felt the performance went well,” he said following his set. “Unfortunately, the crowd was not much of a rap crowd, but … after my set, I had a lot of individuals come up to me and congratulate me on the performance. They definitely appreciated it, even though they couldn’t vibe out to it as much as a ‘hip-hop head’ would.”
During the concert, it became clear the hip-hop genre wasn’t the clear favorite, perhaps providing a disadvantage.
“I’m not really a fan of hip-hop or rap,” said freshman visual and media arts major Michelle Galleggo, following Collins’ performance. “But kudos to him for being able to come up with something that flows. Rap seems difficult. I could appreciate the effort.”
Collins said he will be recording an EP for free with Wax On Felt for taking second place.
“I plan to show how versatile I can be on a hip-hop record,” he said.
Vundabar, an indie rock band based out of Boston, and The Rolling Coasters, a ska punk band of seniors from Watertown High School, tied for third place, and will each record two songs for free with Wax On Felt.
Haley Gorycki, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major, said that Vundabar and The Rolling Coasters were her two favorite performances of the night.
“[Vundabar] reminded me of other indie bands I like,” she said, “and they were the closest to my personal music preference. But I really liked The Rolling Coasters too. [Both bands] had the tightest sound, and they were definitely the most put together.”
According to Virginia Wright, the vice president of Wax On Felt, in addition to the recording time that each of the artists won, the record label will sign all four winning bands and help them with promotion, graphic design, and booking shows around Boston for the remainder of the school year.
Other performers at the 2013 Battle of The Bands included Allston rock band Flashbang!, and pop-rock singer-songwriter and senior writing, literature, and publishing major Cody Masters.
Having four winners to sign instead of the expected three is a hefty task for the Wax On Felt team to take on, but Wright is confident they’ll be able to rise to the challenge.
“We did not go into the battle expecting to sign four bands, but as a label, we feel confident that our team can handle the work,” she said. “Our lineup this year is very diverse and we’re all very excited to work with all of our artists.”
This year, the Wax On Felt team worked harder than ever to market the 2013 Battle of the Bands to potential competitors and clients, Wright explained.
“Each year we print out flyers about submissions and put them up around Emerson and Berklee,” she said. “This year, we started flyering in the summer, to get more submissions.”
Wax On Felt’s hard work paid off. According to Wright, this year’s event ran smoothly and the entire Wax On Felt team is proud of how the battle went.
“The turnout this year was awesome,” she said. “In years past, the turnout has been about the same, but more people stayed for the entire show.”