Bitter Band Review: National Campus Band Competition

Last month, JIVE on Hindley Street was besieged by a storm of sour notes and off-key singing from four incredibly average bands from UniSA who are all focussed on the unlikely chance of winning $5k at the national finals.

Let’s begin with the funk-rock fathers called Pumpometer. These middle-aged maestros flaunted joggers, jeans and mean goatees which gave off some pungent 40-year-old dad vibes, highlighting their unawareness of the competition being for university students. Perhaps the most youthful thing about these guys was the drummer’s unabashed draping of himself in a World of Warcraft t-shirt. Pumpometer evoked even more curiosity when their macho skin-head lead singer stepped up to the stage with an electric ukulele: not your standard, fedora-wearing, Jason Mraz-type ukulele wielder. But, boy, could that man bust a note on that thing. He stole the show with a shredding solo while the bass player’s finger-work would have even give Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers a massive hard-on. It’s a real shame they didn’t make it through to the finals and I’d love to see them give it another crack next year if they’re not too busy paying off mortgages.

Next up there’s Larsen, the mop-headed grunge dudes. As expected, their tunes weren’t as smooth as their luscious, silky locks; meat-and-potatoes drumming was boxed in by a wall of thick guitar distortion and aggressive bass. They pumped out ballsy, Silverchair-esque bangers which were paired with some half-decent attempts at vocal harmonising. If there was one thing that Larsen had proved, it was that kitchen mops make better guitar players than one would expect – solos were well-executed, especially considering neither guitarists had any vision of their instruments. Nevertheless, it’s great to know the boys will have those Head and Shoulders endorsements to fall back on when their music careers fall through.

The next musical abomination were The Monikers. First impressions were not good; stepping up to the stage were a motley bunch of misfits with a Jack Black lookalike as their frontman. Okay Kung Fu Panda, show me what you’ve got. Truth be told, I was expecting woeful covers from the School of Rock soundtrack but I was pleasantly surprised. These boys delivered jangly ditties with groovy basslines and snarling guitar solos. Catchy pop hooks and bright, colourful melodies made for instant crowd-pleasers. And may I add, Nacho Libre’s voice was tastier than a Zamby’s burrito. Having finished first place, these indie-rock oddballs are something of which UniSA should be mildly proud.

Punk rock drongos Radix were then called to the stage, displaying the usual rock ‘n’ roll tragedies. The bass player was unsure whether he wanted to be a punk or a flower-child with a bandana unsuitably wrapped around his spiky-haired head. One could say they looked a bit Radix-ulous, banging those heads with no hair to whip. The lead singer had a couple of cracking jokes up his sleeve which even raised smiles on the surly judges’ faces, suggesting a promising career in comedy when his musical endeavours inevitably crash and burn.

They played aggro tunes that make you want to get up, steal old ladies’ purses and kick people in the head. Yet, two of the golden rules of punk music were broken; there were guitar solos and, amazingly, a sense of melody. They even mustered up the musical prowess to throw in some dance-y little disco beats which smartened up all of that big, dumb punk. The judges seemed to enjoy (or at least tolerate) this, as Radix finished second place.

In all, it was an unforgettable night with some very forgettable bands. Congratulations to finalists The Monikers and runners-up Radix, who proved themselves marginally less average than the others. Show your half-hearted support for our bands and check them out online.

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