By Greg Haymes
The first rock show of the 2013 summer season at Saratoga Performing Arts Center wasn’t the two-night stand by the Dave Matthews Band last weekend. Rather it was the fourth annual SPAC Battle of the Bands on Friday night (May 24) at SPAC’s Spa Little Theater.
Nine bands – most from the Greater Nippertown area, although Rites of Ash hauled themselves all the way up from Baltimore for their 10 minutes on the SPAC stage – each competed, strutting their 10 minutes-worth of original music, one after another.
“Are you ready to rock?” SPAC president Marcia White asked the crowd at the start of the competition.
And indeed they were…
So were the bands… Some were veteran bands with several years of experience under their collective belts. Others were young high schoolers. And there were a couple of broken guitar strings, a malfunctioning foot pedal and some nervous jitters throughout the night, but the bands – and lone solo performer Jes Hudak – persevered like pros. And the evening moved along like clockwork, thanks to emcee Kim (the host of “EQXposure” on WEQX-FM) and the hard work by the stage and sound crews.
At the end of the evening when the dust had finally settled, two bands had been honored with victories.
Call Security was named the Judges’ Choice winner, as determined by the panel of judges which included Richard Pawelczyk of NYC’s Webster Hall, Donna Eichmeyer of Live Nation and yours truly, Greg Haymes of Nippertown.com. Based out of Hobart and William Smith colleges, the band – featuring vocalist Ben Scheibel, guitarist Michelle Poulin, drummer Tucker Jennings, bassist Peter Keller and keyboardist Kathryn Middleton – has only been together for a year and a half, but they churned out a seamless set of solid alt-pop tunes.
And the young Queensbury alt-rock trio VONTUS captured the People’s Choice award, garnering the most votes from the audience. This was the band’s second trip to the SPAC Battle of the Bands finals, having placed second in last year’s competition. This time around, however, the band – featuring guitar hero Johnny Gravitt, vocalist-bassist-guitarist Jake Brooks and drummer Josh Morris – came out on top.
Congratulations go out to all of the bands – Ghosts on 33rd, A Little More Us, Call Security, This Renaissance, the Lucky Jukebox Brigade, VONTUS, the Racer, Jes Hudak and Rites of Ash.