Sunday, October 19, 2014

Punk Rockers Win By Getting Weird at Muse's Battle of the Bands

Posted By on October 19, 2014, 3:35 PM

click to enlarge The Ladells, courtesy of Facebook
  • The Ladells, courtesy of Facebook
Saturday night was the finals of Muse Music Cafe's Battle of the Bands, and contending bands The Ladells, Coma Pilot, Kindred Dead and Okkah arrived ready to give their all to the competition. After many surprises, onstage dancing and a lot of stellar music, The Ladells were declared the winner.

Interestingly, though, when punk rockers The Ladells took the stage as the first act of the night, the audience wasn't on their side right away. But the audience's initial lukewarm (and a little freaked out) reaction didn't phase The Ladells a bit, who seemed to take the challenge of winning over the spectators in stride. Combining their glammed-up but gritty punk sound with off-the-wall onstage antics as well as hip-thrusting dancing courtesy of frontman Max Punck, The Ladells gave a carefree, slightly tongue-in-cheek performance that was as fun to listen to as it was to watch.

And there was a lot to watch. I thought I'd seen it all, but I was proved wrong when Max paused mid-song to duck behind the guitarist and slip into a Batman costume, which he wore for a couple songs. And I was proved even more wrong when he grabbed a very real hammer and went into the audience, swinging it around and sending a few attendees fleeing in fear. I'm not sure how in control he was of the swinging, but that's what made it so funny to watch. And it seemed like as The Ladells' set progressively got stranger and stranger, the more the audience got into what they were doing. At one point, when Max was making one of his many dance-walks through the crowd, he got some hugs and high-fives.

click to enlarge The Ladells
  • The Ladells
After playing a lot of loud, fast punk rock and finally winning over the audience, The Ladells—minus bass player Saliva Plath—all collapsed in an exhausted heap on drummer Karl Ladell's drum kit, and it was a perfect end to their set.

click to enlarge The Ladells
  • The Ladells
Next up was Coma Pilot, whose guitar- and synth-driven pop-punk/emo sound took me back to about 2003, when everyone at my high school was into bands like Blink-182, Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional. The foursome looked dapper in coordinating shirts and ties, but their fashion choices weren't enough to make their performance very cohesive. By standing on the P.A. at the edge of the stage for practically the duration of the performance, the lead singer was indeed a commanding presence, but it would've been interesting to see the other members of the band in the spotlight from time to time. But even though Coma Pilot's set had its issues—including some shaky vocals—the audience seemed really into what they were doing, responding to the band's invitations to wave their arms, count and clap.

click to enlarge Coma Pilot
  • Coma Pilot
The third band to take the stage that night was Kindred Dead, whose indie-rock sound got a unique twist with the addition of piano and synths from lead vocalist Emmett Florence, who would gesticulate with his hands to emphasize the lyrics when he wasn't playing keyboard. Upbeat and dance-friendly, Kindred Dead's music got most of the audience moving happily, and the band members themselves were visibly into the music as well. The bassist, especially, couldn't seem to hold still; he flew from one end of the stage to the other, drawing more attention to him than Florence.

click to enlarge Kindred Dead
  • Kindred Dead
The final act of the night was Okkah. On Facebook, the foursome describe their wild music as "symphonic tribal pop," and it's fitting, given Ammon Chung's intensely intricate viola playing and the presence of two drummers in the band. And with frontman Michael Whittle sometimes pounding on a floor tom while singing, the percussive element of Okkah's sound was very strong. But all those drums often overshadowed the viola, despite Chung's eyebrow-raising ability to fill a ton of sonic space as well as the addition of a backing track. The band's energy was up for the entire set and seemed to spread to the audience members, many of whom came onstage during Okkah's final song to dance along.

click to enlarge Okkah
  • Okkah
It was a night of excellent showmanship and four bands pouring their hearts and souls into their performances. It will be exciting to see where The Ladells go from here.   
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