The only sound in the dimly lit room was the excited breathing of all the bands. Waiting in anticipation as they waited for Charlie Relischl — organizer for the Neutral Zone’s Battle of the Bands contest — to announce the order in which the groups would perform in. As Relischl finished typing in the final names of the bands into a random list generator he looked around and smiled. Relischl looked past the bands standing in front of him and instead looked at all the work that had been put into getting to that point: the months of planning, advertising to make the Superbowl jealous and the immeasurable amount of time that the groups had spent preparing for the performance.
“Battle of the Bands has to be one of my favorite events of the year because it’s built by teams, organized by teams, and performed by teams making it the definition of self-actualization,” Relischl said. “What we try to do here at Neutral Zone is make the event run as smoothly as possible, and this year we’ve made Battle of the Bands sound better, we’ve made it smarter than ever before by live streaming it onto the internet and we improved the advertising of the event so more people are coming this year.”
As masses of people filled into the B-Side concert hall, Battle of the Bands MC’s Avi Gurfinkle and Max Steiger climbed onto the stage to announce the order of bands, as well as the awards of the night. The order of performers for the evening would be Impulse, Sunny Headache, Colorless Exile, Prophecy, Alt. Facts and the Left Lanes. The bands would be competing for a third place prize of a headline show at the B-Side as well as time to produce a single in the Neutral Zone’s recording studio, a second place prize of a time-slot at Live on Washington in addition to a professional photo shoot and a first place prize of a time-slot at Top of the Park, an Ann Arbor music festival, and a live performance at WCBN radio station.
“We were really looking forward to using this concert as a way for us to promote our music and the album that we just release,” said Simon Gensterblum, a guitarist for the Alt. Fact. “Because we didn’t have an album release concert we’re hoping this concert helps draw in new people to our music, and if we win that will help us gain an even larger audience.”
Each band stepped onto the stage and performed a 15-minute set. As all the egroups played, a panel of five judges sat and graded each band on three categories: musicianship, showmanship and originality. In addition to the three categories, the judges looked at how the audience reacted to each group with a decimeter. When each band left the stage, the crowd screamed in admiration for their favorite bands, cheering until their voices went hoarse.
“Everyone brings something really unique to the table in this show so it’s hard to tell whether you’re going to like the next band more than the band you’re listening to,” said Community High junior, Nathan Sprick. “Battle of the bands brings this energy that can’t be explained. All these great bands come together and it makes this really great night that can’t be replicated any other time of the year.
When all the bands completed their first sets, the panel of judges went upstairs to begin the elimination of bands playing in the second and final round. Bands looked at each other in admiration, and in suspense. Their nervous energy began seeping into the crowd, and when the judges came back down to announce who would be moving on to the final round, the building was shaking in anticipation. One of the judges handed Relischl a notecard with the competing bands: Prophecy, The Left Lanes, and Colorless Exile.
“If you were to tell me we would be moving on to the final round a couple of days ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Aris Chalin, pianist for Prophecy. “Even when the judges said we were moving on, I didn’t believe them. But that’s the beauty of Battle of the Bands; groups like ours, groups like Colorless Exile, oddball groups like these always manage to make it into the final round, and that’s what makes it so exciting. Anything can happen on that stage.”