Party for Your Right to Fight

At first it resembled a high school talent show. At The Whole Music Club’s “Battle of the Bands” on Saturday, moms and dads toted camcorders while little brothers and sisters shuffled around Coffman Union’s Great Hall in snow pants. With more at stake than a talent show, the battle was a chance for 13 bands to be heard – for the first time for many – by a crowd of 641 and a panel of five judges representing several facets of the Twin Cities music industry. The show was also an inventive way to get the University “campus-as-a-venue” notion back into music lovers’ consciousnesses.

“Our intention was to raise hype, to get people talking about our club again,” said Paul Wichmann, co-coordinator of The Whole Music Club. “We’ve been doing shows at Cedar Cultural Center, The North Star Ballroom, and people kind of forgot about The Whole because we were all over the place.”

Even more important, The Whole’s return is a huge coup for members of the under-21 concert-going community, who are constantly in search of all-age venues.

“The Whole is one of the premier 18-plus and under-21 venues in the cities; there aren’t many to begin with,” Wichmann said. “The fact that we have no alcohol and no smoking may be a detriment to some, but I think it’s really great not having smoke flying around everywhere.”

Responding to ads placed in City Pages and The Minnesota Daily, more than 130 bands sent their demos and bios to the 15 members and volunteers of The Whole Music Club for scrutiny. After several days of listening parties, the massive mound of CDs was distilled to just 13 lucky acts, which ranged from the stand-up comedy music antics of Doc’s Kids to the earnest piano rock of the night’s first-place winners, Sue Generis.

The five judges included Melissa Maerz, music editor at City Pages; Sonia Grover, booking agent at First Avenue; Lance Hughes of On Campus Booking; Jim Weber of 360 Music Group and Jennifer Schneider, music editor at the Daily.

The 13 bands that performed were, in order of appearance: Leroy Smokes, Torok, Kangaroo, Brice, Choplogic, The Fillmores, Sue Generis, Urizen, Doc’s Kids, Clovis, Audrey, The Unies and The Clampdown.

The Latin-flavored hip-hop of the brave first band, Leroy Smokes, kicked off the night at 5 p.m. The seven-piece band smashed the high school feel with great, sexy rhythms and odes to their smoking philosophy.

Next up was the unintentionally amusing 1980s hair metal – minus the hair – of Torok. Young men head-banged mockingly while mothers hurriedly escorted their children out of the hall.

When the exuberant, heavy ska/pop-punk band The Unies took the stage after almost five hours of other bands’ sets, they invigorated the yawning audience with their bratty, tongue-wagging attitude. Still in high school, The Unies drove to Minneapolis from Sioux Falls, S.D., to play their 20-minute set and then drove back the same night. Although they placed only sixth in the competition – they were robbed – they won over the crowd more than any other act of the night. With a crowded stage and a three-piece horn section, The Unies worked the audience into a playful frenzy – pogoing, pumping their fists, forming circle pits and by the end, stripping off their shirts.

Second-place winners and campus favorites Brice did their share of crowd rousing as well. Before gracing the stage, Brice already had female fans in B-R-I-C-E emblazoned shirts crowding the stage and whooping girlishly. Their distinctive sound, a blend of the nasally vocals of Ween as well as rolling, spunky tunes reminiscent of later-day Brit rock, would easily get them on “Shindig” if it was still on the air.

As the night wound down around 10 p.m., Wichmann announced the winners. Racking up the most points that evening, Sue Generis won $1,000 and the opportunity to headline The Whole’s first official concert since reopening this month. Second- and third-place winners Brice and Clovis – winning $500 and $250, respectively – will open for the band Feb. 7.

Although the silent anticipation was a bit suspenseful, the bands seemed fairly indifferent about the battle process.

“I really don’t like ‘battle of the bands.’ It’s so weird because music isn’t about that, normally,” said Jason Albus, lead singer and guitarist for pop punk band Choplogic. “Most people that get into music aren’t into the competitive stuff. It’s the kids that sucked at baseball or couldn’t get on the football team. So this is pretty weird, but it’s fun.”

Sue Generis, Brice and Clovis will perform at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at The Whole Music Club (612) 624-6224. 18+

Brianna Riplinger welcomes comments at [email protected]