They’d passed all the preliminary rounds, and last night was the finale for five bands as they competed for the opening spot at Spring Jam tonight. Due to unfortunate (snow) circumstances earlier this week and the ground being too soft for the typically outdoor stage setup, it was moved inside to the Great Hall in Coffman this year, which fans, artists, and organizers managed to make the best of. The night was facilitated by the U of M Student Unions & Activities and emceed by U of M alum and last year’s Battle of the Bands winner, Vessle, a locally based rapper. This year’s five finalists were Atomic Cafe, Dreams We’ve Had, Papa Velvet and the Good Ghost, Last Import, and Feed Us.
Let’s start out strong with the big winners, Dreams We’ve Had, who ended up winning the spot for Spring Jam tonight. Set to release an LP next week, the dream pop outfit has a strong sound somewhere between Slowdive and Chvrches with a defining precision in the way they play. Once they hit the last chorus on their opening song, “Cocaine,” lead singer, Kenzie Jansen, belted out a loud and powerful “away,” and they made it known that Dreams We’ve Had weren’t just another band.
Second place was Papa Velvet and the Good Ghost, who won a spot to play Wam-O-Rama next fall on Sept. 7th. Giving perhaps the most charismatic performance of the evening — and easily the jazziest — Papa Velvet commanded the stage before Vessle could even introduce the band. They played a couple of their original songs before introducing an extended cover of Rihanna’s “Higher,” described as, “a holiday classic, never fails to put me in higher spirits. . .this song is by the beloved Rih Rih,” which wasn’t their first reference to the fact that it was April 20. They closed their set with Papa Velvet introducing the other five members of the band with a little jam number. Their jazzy electro-pop had the otherwise dud of a crowd dancing.
Last Import left with a headlining spot for one of three of the Whole Music Club’s 50th Anniversary shows. The surf punk trio reminded listeners the power and force that a guitar-bass-drums band can demand, considering the three bands who played before them all had at least five members and a whole array of instruments. During just their first song, Vessle came up to me and said, “Wow, this is f—ing awesome!” They got the audience involved when bassist Grace Baldwin taught the crowd their “7 Lives” chorus, which, easily enough, is just, “Hell yeah!”
Atomic Cafe ended up winning studio time with Radio K, and for having opened the show, they drew quite the crowd. The self-described psychedelic garage-rock band began their set strong with “Wisconsin,” which seemed to be a fan favorite based on the number of people singing along in the crowd. They told us they’re set to have a new EP titled Further come out soon, and they closed their set by introducing the last song with, “Last one, guys, let’s go crazy! . . .” They didn’t do a Prince cover, but they still put on an energetic show nonetheless.
Closing the night was FEED US, who ended up taking home $250 in gift cards. A band that’s hard to describe style- and genre-wise, they put on a show that you just need to be there to experience. Blending elements of hip-hop, electronic, metal, and indie rock, they took the prize for most genres covered in any set last night. A signature of the band seemed to be that they all shared instrumentation equally, rotating positions between songs. Their set reached a peak when vocalist/bassist Benjamin Peterson jumped into the crowd during a song that is best described as an emotionally charged rap metal song.
While the turnout would have been stronger had they been able to hold Battle of the Bands outside like normal, Whole Music Club event planner Sean Batz said, “We were really happy with how the Battle of the Bands turned out this year. There was a lot of variety in [the sound of] the acts and I think it was representative of the wide range and talent of UMN student bands.”
Dreams We’ve Had
Papa Velvet and the Good Ghost