Image description: On a stage, with green and aqua strobe lighting, two men play trumpets.
By Susannah Wong
I wouldn’t have believed just how seriously residential students take the RSD’s annual Battle of the Bands until I went for myself, last Thursday night.
Along with three other students, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pass judgement in an official capacity (the gig of a lifetime). We were promised an unlimited bar tab, and instead had to settle for an Esky of Italian still water and drought beer – but apparently a certain judge took ‘unlimited’ at face value last year.
So, Santa Vittoria still water in hand, we set out to the matter of judging. For those of you who couldn’t make it and live vicariously through reviews, here’s a quick rundown of each of the colleges.
Image description: A view from the crowd towards the stage, with orange, pink, and blue strobe lighting.
- Thomas More (5th Place)
- Let’s Dance to Joy Division – The Wombats
- I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston
- Believe – Cher (DMA’s Like a Version cover)
- Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkeys
- 7 – Catfish and the Bottlemen
Rolling with an indie rock vibe, Tommy More delivered a solid set of well-known classics. Despite their placing fifth, they were by no means bad; their set had a bright, guitar-driven sound and an undeniably high energy.
The only major problem was that the band didn’t really gel together as a unit – the guitarist on the far right was barely even on the stage, and hard to see behind everyone. Also, Believe was mostly an acoustic guitar and vocal cover; kind of a strange choice for a battle of the bands.
Great vocals, though, and a most impressive kazoo solo from the lead guitarist.
- Trinity (2nd Place)
- When You Were Young – The Killers
- Calypso – Spiderbait
- Covered in Chrome – Violent Soho
- Dinosaurs – Ruby Field
- I Touch Myself – Divinyls
- Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
There was only a point and a half between Trinity and the winning college, and for half of the judging panel, Trinity were the choice to win. It was honestly a shame they didn’t; everyone loves an underdog, and Trinity definitely pulled out all the stops.
The band’s set was the most ambitious of the night, with six songs instead of the usual five, most of which were fairly alternative.
Above all, Trinity’s performance was definitely the most provocative. I Touch Myself is always controversial, and this was only exacerbated with the mid-song loss of shirt.
An extremely entertaining performance for sure, and definitely the college to watch in 2021.
Image description: A view from the stage towards, the crowd. A woman stands on the stage, facing the crowd. Behind barriers, facing the stage, is a tightly-packed crowd of young people, waving their arms, and phones recording the performance.
- St Catherine’s (3rd Place)
- The Less I Know the Better – Tame Impala
- Thanks for the Memories – Fall Out Boy
- Livin’ La Vida Loca – Ricky Martin
- Queen Medley – Queen
- Mr Brightside – The Killers
St Cat’s were the only band to come in fully coordinated outfits, and while the effort is appreciated, the choice of lumberjack-esque plaid shirts and singlets was fairly distracting.
Bringing in a brass section for Livin’ La Vida was a nice thought, and whilst a little messy in execution, it was a hit with the audience. There were some very strategic song choices on the band’s part, particularly with the Queen medley – an unexpected but clever arrangement of five of the iconic band’s best, and a highlight of the set.
It was disappointing to see quite a large crowd from St Cat’s leave after the band’s slot ended, though.
- Unihall (4th Place)
- Check Yes, Juliet – We the Kings
- I Love Rock n Roll – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
- Moonage Daydream – David Bowie
- Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
- So What – Pink
While St Cat’s band were almost over-coordinated, Unihall was the exact opposite. Despite every member looking like were from a different band, there was definitely a united sound here, and some high technical proficiency – the band’s drummer hit hard, and was one of the best all night. There was also a great guitar tapping solo added to the Bowie classic Moonage Daydream.
It was a little hard to hear what the keyboard was doing some of the time, though, and some numbers could have used a key change to better accommodate the singer’s vocals. In saying that, overall, it was a well-done set.
Image description: A photograph taken on the stage, from behind the drummer. A man is visible playing the drums emphatically, and his band members stand in front of him. There is a strong blue light all across the image.
- St George’s (1st Place)
- Joker & the Thief – Wolfmother
- Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
- Everybody Talks – Neon Trees
- Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) – ABBA
- Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
We were actually warned about St George’s beforehand – apparently, the hall’s four-year streak of victories courts controversy, with accusations of bribery and the school being made up of professional musicians being inescapable.
For a student battle of the bands, it was nuts. But it soon became blatantly clear just where the rumours stemmed from; these guys were not only technically perfect, but gelled together really well, with a memorable, crowd-pleasing performance.
While their song choices were admittedly safe compared to Trinity, no other house had an electric violin and flute section; three people playing the same keyboard at one time; a behind-the-head guitar solo à la Jimi Hendrix; and a rapping section. The band members had a really obvious chemistry with each other and with the audience, and it was a well-deserved win.
Images courtesy of RSD