Web exclusive: 3d annual NU Battle of the Bands rocks afterHOURS

By Maggie Cassidy

With a powerful four-song set that had judges and audience members tapping their feet, clapping their hands and cheering in applause, Dirt Water Refuge won the third annual Northeastern Battle of the Bands Friday night in afterHOURS.

The annual event was hosted by the Council for University Programming (CUP) and the Northeastern chapter of the Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association (MEISA). Dirt Water Refuge competed against modern rock band Copenger and Highland Pines, which had an alternative rock sound. The three finalists were narrowed down from eight bands in a series of shows earlier this semester.

Dirt Water Refuge consisted of two Northeastern alumni. Johnny Mazcko manned the band’s vocals, guitar and harmonica and Nirajan Tuladhar played lead guitar. Along with Wentworth Institute of Technology’s bassist Labi Shrestha and Berklee College’s Dominic Adesso on drums, the alumni performed for a panel of judges that consisted of a guest judge from Pretty Polly Productions and student judges from MEISA and CUP.

“What set Dirt Water Refuge apart was the fact that onstage they were having a good time, they were smiling, they were moving around, they were getting the crowd involved,” said Nani Stoick, vice president of MEISA, a member of CUP and one of the several judges. “Musically [the bands] were very equal, but presentation-wise [Dirt Water Refuge] just were a step above,” she said. “We were very happy to give them the prize and to give them the honor of winning Battle of the Bands.”

The band won a fully-functional Guitar Hero video game controller spray-painted gold, as well as the opening slot for The Format at afterHours Friday night.

Students at the show said Dirt Water Refuge deserved the prize.

“I thought it was a very mature performance,” said Sam Beebe, a middler music technology major. “They’re a band that has worked very hard to stick with it. … It’s really awesome to watch because they’re real people.”

Senior music industry major Mike Bishop agreed with Beebe.

“I think they were the most professional out of the three bands and they sounded the most rehearsed,” he said.

Mazcko said Dirt Water Refuge’s sound is influenced by artists like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Ryan Adams to create its upbeat sound – part country, part alternative rock. Tuladhar said the band entered the battle after participating last year.

“We were so unorganized, we didn’t even have a sound check or anything,” Tuladhar said. “We just went to the stage and did our best.”

While band and audience members enjoyed the night’s performances, some said they disagreed with the selection process. Bands sent in demo tapes and small press kits, including a small biography and pictures, which were then reviewed and rated, Stoick said.

“A band could have a lot of money and have a great demo but be a crappy band,” Beebe said. He also said he would have liked the panel of judges to meet the bands before accepting them into the competition.

Mazcko also said the selection process should have been different, and that a band called the Dead Dogs should’ve been among the original eight bands.

Stoick said while reviewing demos was a factor, it was “not the most important thing” in deciding which bands made the final eight. She said originality and presentation of the press kits were the biggest factors. Bands also needed to have at least two Northeastern alumni or students.

Mazcko said it was an enjoyable experience.

“It’s just a good opportunity to go out and get some exposure, get some new fans, just have some fun,” Mazcko said.

While Highland Pines performed at the show, three out of four of its original members were not there, making the band ineligible for the competition.

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