Last Night: Live 105's Battle of the Opening Bands
Live 105's Not So Silent Night Local Band Competition Finals with: Picture Atlantic, Please Do Not Fight, Go Kart Mozart, Music For Animals, and Dizzy Balloon
Monday, Dec. 7, 2008
Cafe du Nord
Words and images by Jennifer Maerz
Last night, Live 105-supporting musicians bonded at Cafe du Nord over cups of free ice water and radio station schwag with one common goal in mind. They all wanted to open for the Killers, Death Cab For Cutie, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, and Jack's Mannequin on Thursday night.
As a member of Redwood City's Please Do Not Fight casually inflated black balloons with his band logo on it, someone's preteen siblings played pool in the back of the club and two sets of white haired parents shook hands by the bar when they realized their sons played music together. It was all friendly as a neighborhood block party on the surface, but in the end only one group was gonna get that soundcheck with the Killers at Oakland's Oracle Arena on Thursday night. That's because this whole shindig was final round in the annual battle of the bands for Live 105's annual holiday music bash, Not So Silent Night.
Of 116 demos submitted to the radio station, 25 were chosen by Live 105 to be posted online. Fans cast their votes for a week and the circle was whittled down to five: Please Do Not Fight, San Jose's Picture Atlantic, Concord's Go Kart Mozart, San Francisco's Music For Animals, and Piedmont's Dizzy Balloon all of whom performed for a panel of us judges (including yours truly) so we could send one winner into the company of Death Cab and co. later this week.
It was a tough gig being a judge (our American Idol-worthy panel included members of last year's winning band, Maldroid, as well as representatives from Talking House Records, Zeitgeist Management , and Zero magazine). I mean, first of all, we had to navigate such bribery! One good buddy of Go Kart Mozart tried to tempt the female judges with bicep flexes and rubbing his nipples (neither of which worked in provoking anything but our severe discomfort) and finally, by offering pieces of citrus-flavored Trident (which I accepted, but hey, in no way swayed my vote). Two networking-savvy members of Please Do Not Fight introduced themselves to the panel and had talking points memorized about each of our day jobs. And one of my fellow judges told me of a laywer (?) who had offered him a twenty spot to give a contestant high marks. Twenty bucks? Dude, we're in a recession here --you've gotta think higher than that. Or at least bring more gum.
In the end, I assure you there was no foul play from the judges as we studied these five bands, rated them on everything from stage presence to musicianship to crowd reaction, and occasionally tried to check our text messages without being too obvious about it.
For their end, the bands definitely gave it their all -- in very commerical radio-friendly ways. There was much thanking of Live 105, and the other bands performing, and the crowd (which included guardians, younger brothers, and in the case of Dizzy Balloon, groups of girls in backpacks grabbing one another by the arm as they pogoed into the air). There was also much influence taken from today's top radio acts -- from Dashboard Confessional by way of Matt and Kim (Please Do Not Fight) to East Bay pop punk (Go Kart Mozart) to Coldplay and the Killers (Picture Atlantic). I have to say that Picture Atlantic threw me off a bit, though -- the frontman shook his shaggy hair so much between songs (when he wasn't rolling back his eyes and throwing his arms around) it was like he'd watched too many back-to-back episodes of Gimme Shelter and Control. His Mick Jagger-Ian Curtis thing was entertaining, but I can't say if it was because of or in spite of those moves. But the dude did have a great, swoony voice that ladies who love the grand-swelling rock ballads dig these days.
(Music For Animals)
Music For Animals tricked out their set with budget costumes. The guitarists wore red and green Christmas lights, and the singer stripped down to a sweater vest and gold chains. If only the music they played had the same levity as their stylist. Their emo-tinged indie rock felt weighed down by so much self-serious hand wringing. Compared to the other acts on the bill, you just wanted to tell MFA to lighten up -- life doesn't have to sound so emotionally distraught (although they did play around with a faint dance beat at times to pick things up a bit).
So who won?
I don't know-- the station supposedly tallied our votes last night and made the announcement at 9 a.m. this morning. I missed it (so I'll insert the name here when I get the memo).
But my highest votes went to Dizzy Balloon (who won!), a band with a terrible name but an infectious pop sensibility. They were like the class clowns in AP English -- juvenile without being delinquents, fun yet smart, and succeeding in making the folks around them really happy. The whole band jumped around like the stage was their bouncy castle, their five-part choruses ringing their Weezer meets Electric Six sound off the back walls.
The crowd kinda went apeshit -- well, as much as parents and underage kids can go apeshit at 11:30 on a school night. But hey, of all the performers they made the night the most fun. And by the time they'd finished (they were the last band on stage) my gum had gone stale, my scientific ratings were about to be calculated, and most of Please Do Not Fight's black balloons had been popped. It was time to go home.
By the way: The strangest local "musician" to enter Live 105's Not So Silent Night opening act contest is a dude named Itzhak Volansky, who made a video for his single, "My Parachute Won't Open."
The cynic in me calls bullshit on this guy, but Live 105's Aaron Axelsen swore to me (on his radio career, no less) that this isn't some made up shit, so there you go. You can create your own remix or cover of the parachute song and post it to Live 105's Web site here (Dizzy Balloon of course jumped on that opportunity immediately).