Written by Sam O’Keefe
Pictures and Interview by Francis Raboy
The excitement never waned Saturday, January 30th at Arlington’s Regent Theater, where six bands rocked the stage in a night of music, fundraising, and surprises that attracted hundreds from the AHS and Arlington community.
The Battle of the Bands (BOTB), a yearly winter event organized by the AHS STAND Club, never fails to entertain by putting on a night where bands comprised of youth originating predominantly from AHS and the Arlington community compete to win first or second place, which is chosen by a teacher committee by the end of the night.
BOTB has always been a fundraising event, where money collected goes toward global humanitarian relief efforts. This year ten percent of each ticket sold was designated for Save The Children and its relief efforts in Syria.
Aside from ticket sales, the club was able to raise more funds by offering several enticing raffle prizes, stocked with items donated generously from Arlington businesses such as The Madrona Tree, Retroburger, Wood and Strings, J and L Hair Studios, Arlington Centered, and the Book Rack.
Before the music even started, the night’s lively spirit was given a boost by AHS seniors Cindy Zou and Vignesh Chockalingam took the stage to host the event. Full of corny jokes, creative commentary, and an eagerness to entertain, Zou and Chockalingam who proved the ideal candidates to keep the energy flowing throughout the night, remind the audience of the tempting raffle prizes in between sets, and introduce and welcome each band to the stage.
Zou outgoing and animated, gladly showed the audience some of her sick dance moves while the more tranquil Chockalingam calmed the mood by bringing some of his dry humor.
Once the lights went down, seats filled up, and a lull overtook the room. The audience grew eager to see the battle’s first band take the stage. Poised and anxious to perform, Insight took the stage, a young band with a unique look, comprised of members CJ and Nick Wallace, Liam Farrell, Ryan Murphy, and Emily Campagna. Right from the start, this first band set an impressive precedent for the night, delivering a fresh and upbeat sound with strong and signature lead vocals by confident and comfortable Campagna, who took the spotlight with her own rock look and attitude.
The audience immediately grew engaged when the high-pitched, trilly tune of Britney Spear’s “Toxic” filled the room, as the band proceeded to kill a pop classic with their own rock twist. The band’s subsequent songs, including No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs” and The Heavy’s rebellious and empowering anthem “How You Like Me Now” proved consistent with the exciting, intriguing tone set forth by the first song. Campagna’s wide vocal range and movement, accompanied by her band’s solid players and talent, led Insight to be a real contender in the competition. Campagna said, “I’ve been singing since forever, but only about three years ago did I start taking it seriously.” Undoubtedly the young teen’s talent is innate, only becoming more polished throughout her years of hard work and practice.
After the night’s first band left the stage, it was clear that the audience was in for some impressive acts. It wasn’t long before everyone’s attention was grabbed again when colorful and interesting band Blacklight took the stage, complete with members Julian Carpenter, Chris Madden, Michael Morrissette, Myles Lehman, Nico Holt, Kevin LaFleur, and Owen Kulinski.
With Lehman and Madden, popular AHS juniors, and other band members dressed in neon-colored spandex and accessorized with stylish sunglasses, the group never failed to lose the attention.
Lehman and Madden and their undeniable trombone skills stole the show; they were quick to let everyone in the band exhibit their talent, as their prolonged introductory instrumental consisted of each band member having their own mini-solo. After this comprehensive showcase, Madden took the microphone to provide a cool voice to greet his audience and create a laid back, almost comical mood that manifested throughout their performance, which well-complemented the group’s outlandish clothing.
Proceeding with a few more instrumental classics, Blacklight brought a unique and unconventional BOTB experience, playing exclusive tunes such as “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock and “Colorful Midst” by Main Squeeze. It was certainly a significant night for drummer Julian Carpenter, a freshman, the youngest player in the competition, who explained, “I was scared, before but I want to do it again next year.”
Subsequent bands Star-67 and Cataracts and Rinclons continued the night’s music by presenting acts that were characteristic of their members and that certainly preserved an unpredictable and exciting mood to the night.
Star-67, composed of sophomores and juniors Jesse Schultz, Calvin McLean, and Tommy Barvick, gave a surprising and entertaining performance with several original songs, one amusingly echoing stories of middle school romances and dramas under the title “Toxic Eighth Grade Relationships,” which gave the teen members of the audience a good laugh and a familiar sense of nostalgia. Setting such a humorous tone, the band gladly proceeded to its next songs.
When Cataracts and Rinclons took the stage, the night was well on its way to being an outstanding night, with so many different sounds and performances that were all a success. Cataracts and Rinclons, comprised of mostly seniors, such as lead vocalist Jacob Kiely-Song, bassist Alexander Franzosa, guitarist Ben Boyajian, guest Jeremy Weaver, and also junior Tommy Barvick, represented Ace Hardware, flashing the store’s sweatshirts as they took the stage to present a diverse array of songs including heavy metal jams, fantasy themed tunes, and current pop ballads. Starting with an intense, bold and forceful rendition of Tool’s “Sober,” Kiely-Song emerged as a dynamic and passionate vocalist and performer, belting out the song’s famed notes and stealing the stage, with powerful Jeremy Weaver who emphatically tore through the song’s lyrics.
In between songs, the band gave familiar and fun transitions with the ominous theme song of Harry Potter, which they used to help segue into their next songs. Proceeding with popular song “The Hills” by the Weekend, they were sure to incorporate some contemporary tunes. One of the most intimate and captivating parts of the entire night occurred with senior Mina Burton, who emerged from backstage during the Cataracts’ performance to sing a touching and beautiful duet with Kiely-Song in the form of Justin Bieber’s currently well-known “Love Yourself.” The two voices were apt for the song’s raw and warm sound, as they intertwined to bring the night’s loudness and energy to a more relaxed and meaningful moment. Burton gave the Cataracts a unique touch that distinguished them from the rest of the bands.
The final student band of the night certainly did not fail to grab attention, with Baked Beans, a band that has performed at the BOTB for several years and wanted to leave the event with their own personal mark. Comprised of seniors such as Michael Morrissette, Andrew Peterson, Michael Dillon, Lorenzo Rugiero, Myles Goldstein, JJ Hassler, and Kevin LaFleur, the band knew it would be their last year together and planned for a memorable performance, complete with songs such as “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar and “Killing In the Name” by Rage Against the Machine.
A diverse group with many different talents, such as those of Peterson in the form of his signature saxophone skills, and those of Dillon and his impressive percussion skills, having developed over years of extensive practice. With lead vocals by Goldstein and Rugiero, the band’s performance was certainly more than just a musical progression.
Many members of the audience now stood up near the stage in anticipation of a grandiose finale. As the music started to play, the room’s energy revved up, until reaching a climax with Rugiero entering on a dolly dressed in a Mummy costume, tearing it off as the act progressed. Screaming foul language in claiming their own autonomy, the band filled the room with profanity and laughs as the song evolved into a chant reiterating the group’s yearning to express themselves however they wished. The nearly shocking performance went out with a literal bang when Rugiero boldly and confidently smashed a guitar on stage, ending the song.
Certainly, the night’s events saw many different performances complete with a vast array of songs, melodies, and acts that never bored the audience or left the room feeling unenthused. Yet, Baked Beans’ particular and dramatic finale turned out to not be the end of the night’s music, as another band with some familiar faces took the stage to give the night one last bout of music and enjoyment.
AHS English teachers Paul McKnight, Lianna Bessette, Tim Marten, and Justin Bourassa (and Glen Fant, in spirit) took the stage to rock some old and contemporary classics, such as Brad Paisley’s country hit “Me Neither” and the well-known Taylor Swift jam “Shake It Off,” which was proudly and impressively belted out by Bessette. For both students and the performing teachers, the final performance was a time filled with the celebratory air of successful fundraising and an undoubtedly enjoyable night for all.
When all was said and done, the still-energetic MCs took the stage once more to announce the lucky winners of the raffle prizes, each a basket with an eclectic collection of items ranging from Starbuck’s thermoses to restaurant gift cards.
Campagna remarked at the end of the show that, “[I] love performing shows with the band because we’re a family pretty much.” Insight’s drummer CJ Wallace echoes this, describing his fellow band members by explaining, “We all come from different backgrounds.” It is this acceptance and friendliness that the BOTB exhibits which parlays into the meaningful and generous work the event’s organizers do to reach out a hand to those in need around the globe.
Photos taken by Francis Raboy