Bands hope personality, uniqueness will help win Battle

On Friday at the Spa Little Theater, 10 regional bands will duke it out, with one walking away the w
Garden Variety is one of the 10 groups set to compete in Friday’s Battle of the Bands in the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Springs.
Garden Variety is one of the 10 groups set to compete in Friday’s Battle of the Bands in the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Springs.

On Friday at the Spa Little Theater, 10 regional bands will duke it out, with one walking away the winner of Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Battle of the Bands.

The prize package includes a five-song EP recorded at co-sponsor The Recording Company in Albany, airplay on other co-sponsor WEQX-FM, a music video produced by Modern Mix Studios, custom T-shirts and stickers by Saratoga Statement, and an opportunity to play a show this summer at the Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs.

A celebrity judging panel featuring WEQX’s Jason Irwin, drummer Vinnie Amico of moe., and Blue Note Records talent scout Talia Billig will decide the winner based on each band’s 10-minute performance.

Here, nine of the 10 finalists tell their stories, and explain why they will win this year’s Battle of the Bands. The 10th band, Broken Glass & Cigarettes from Albany, did not respond.

SPAC Battle of the Bands

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs

How Much: $15

More Info: 587-3330,

Mary Leigh and the Fauves

Blues/pop, from Saratoga Springs

Band members: MaryLeigh Roohan, vocals, guitar; Dave Farnsworth, bass: Zachary Edwards, drums; Heather Bisch, trombone and ukulele.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

MaryLeigh Roohan: We’ve actually only been playing together since this past September. . . . Zach and I have known each other since elementary school, and he’s helped me before. I was a singer-songwriter before we started the band, so I had songs, and Zach originally helped me keep rhythm early on. I met Dave Farnsworth at an open mike night. Eventually, it all just sort of turned from having a lot of fun to having a lot of fun outside of our basement or practice space.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Roohan: This sounds really trite, and I wish I had a better answer, but we really — we play our hearts out whenever we play. I think what we have going for us is ingenuity and sincerity, and a raw quality where we really just lay everything out on the table when we play our music, so hopefully that will give people something to identify with.

Stuck on Stupid

Classic rock, from Albany

Band members: Dom Brino, lead vocals, guitar; Adam Albright, bass; Garrett Damore, drums; Jake Rohloff, lead guitar.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Dom Brino: We’ve been on “The Early Show”; that’s how we first broke out. We were freshmen in high school, and we were picked in an “Early Show” segment, “Living Room Talent Live.” Out of 30,000 videos submitted, ours was one of nine that were picked, so that was our first real acclaim when we were young. . . . I want to say, probably 2005; that was when it first started.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Brino: Mainly because of our age and the style of writing for our age. We’re more on the classic rock scene, and seeing it coming from kids impresses people. Also, when you’re on stage, a lot of musicians let the stage control you, but we go on there and we control the stage, and that’s how you have to be as performers.

Head Band Jack

Americana, from Saratoga Springs

Band members: Judson Rudgers, vocals, organ; Zachary Hay, vocals, acoustic guitar; Jurij Owad, drums; Mark Retajczyk, lead guitar, slide guitar; Colin Hunt, bass.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Judson Rudgers: Zach and I both went to high school together in Burnt Hills — we were different ages, but we knew each other. And then last summer, we both went to a campfire party, and we brought acoustic guitars and started singing together. We both thought it was amazing, but at that point, he was in North Carolina, and I was in Saratoga. But we started a dialogue about putting together a band when he moved up here around Christmas of 2010, and we really hit the ground running.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Rudgers: The style is a bit of a throwback, folky Americana, roots and blues. We love that; we were all raised on classic rock. As songwriters, we don’t necessarily feel we have to pay homage to that, but it’s just the music we want to make. We bring a bit of a fresh outlook to it lyrically, with modern sentiments lyrically, and base the music around rich vocal harmonies and melodic tunes. And as instrumentalists, we’ve got a little bit of a jam thing going; we like to break it down and solo a bit too. We’re bringing great energy, versatility and we have a lot of different facets to the music.

Probing Digit

Pop/rock, from Saratoga Springs

Band members: The One, vocals; Archibald Snadge, guitar; Trevor Haatz, bass; La Pissoir, keyboard/piano; Gabriel Asturd, drums.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Gabriel Asturd: Probing Digit formed out of necessity. For decades, second-rate groups like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and New Kids on the Block have released nothing but cacophonic garbage. Unwilling to allow the pattern to continue, the men of Probing Digit have devised the most powerful force of musical reckoning ever witnessed in our universe. Since the release of their debut album in December, 37 women and one man have been impregnated by listening to the CD. Probing Digit doesn’t pay child support, so don’t even ask.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Asturd: We are the greatest band in the universe. Any other ruling will simply reveal the judges’ inability to critically analyze art. We’d also like to take this time to say, “You’re welcome,” for all we have done.

High Peaks Band

Jam band, from Saratoga Springs

Band members: Bob McKeon, drums; Rick Nelson, guitar; Derek Buchner, guitar; Mike Hoffman, bass; Ryan Hoffman, keyboards.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Bob McKeon: We’ve been playing together since about 2005. We started out with a fairly large assortment of cover tunes from The Grateful Dead, Phish, Traffic, classic rock and other ’60s improvisational artists, and then we quickly added a lot of originals. Now the originals are beginning to take up about at least a third to half of our show now. As time went on, we have added some more modern-day jam bands, like Phish, Talking Heads; we throw in a Beatles tune every now and then.

Q:Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

McKeon: We’ve got a very tight group of musicians, experienced musicians, and we can play upbeat songs. They’re really well-structured, but also leave a lot of room for improvisation, though we won’t tend to see much of that at the Battle of the Bands; it’s only a 10-minute set. The music we play is — it incorporates a lot of different influences. There’s elements of roots music, rock, funk, jazz and reggae, and sometimes those influences overlap a little bit. We feel that we’ve got a different take on music that isn’t necessarily mainstream, but does have some pop sensibilities that people seem to gravitate towards.

Don’t Look Down

Pop/rock, from Fishkill

Band members: Joe Picard, vocals, guitar; Frankie Carozza, lead guitar; Anthony Carozza, drums; Chris Zollner, bass.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Joe Picard: Late 2008, early 2009 we started getting together; we were in eighth grade. I’m 17; Frankie and Chris are both 16 and Anthony is 14. I knew Frankie for a while; we had been in the same classes for a couple years, and we would hang out and just play some music. I write all the lyrics and everything, so I started bringing some words and melodies to them, and we just started playing together regularly.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Picard: I think we have a good chance of winning because our sound appeals to a large audience. When we play, we could have young kids and even parents and teens that like us, and then we have kind of a pop-rock sound going, so it’s kind of popular now and it appeals to a lot of different people. And I don’t know, but I think our age kind of helps us a little bit, because most people don’t expect that much out of us. We surprise people, and I think that could kind of help us out.

Eastbound Jesus

Bluegrass/rock, from Greenwich

Band members: Adam Brockway, vocals, acoustic guitar; Kyle Anderson, drums, vocals; Luke Anderson, banjo; David Wright, bass; Dylan Robinson, electric guitar.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Adam Brockway: We only started playing together last September. We all knew each other, so we decided to put together an original project. Kyle and I are both songwriters, and we started writing music. In a couple months, we put together a set’s worth of music and started playing shows. We recorded an album last winter and released it in January; it’s called “Greatest Hits Volume One.” And we’ve just been playing a few shows locally here or there, once a month, twice a month, and we’re working on writing our next album now.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Brockway: We hope we win because of our songwriting, I guess. We work really hard, we practice a lot, and we try to write good songs and we try to make the band really tight onstage. I think if we win, it will be because we worked hard and we’ve got a nice, tight, original, raw sound. We hope people like it; we’ve developed a pretty big following in our hometown pretty quickly.

The Garden Variety

Rock/hip-hop/reggae, from Queens and Albany

Band members: Steve Mink, bass; Steve Fisher, vocals, keys; John Noonan, lead guitar; K. White, rapping, drums.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Steve Mink: Our singer and drummer went to college together in Connecticut, in Hartford, and they wanted to start a band. They found me on Craigslist, and our guitar player through another band, and that was in the latter part of 2009. We were together for about two months, and then we went to Jam Box Studios in Manhattan and recorded our full-length album, and we’ve been playing shows since then.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Mink: We have a very unique sound. Our name kind of represents who we are — we are The Garden Variety, and we are a variety of music. Us as people — our lead singer is more of an alt-rock guy, like Goo Goo Dolls sort of sound. As a bass player, I have more of a funky dance vibe, kind of like a jam style. Our drummer is hip-hop, a lot of hip-hop and rock drumming. And our lead guitarist is a phenomenal guitar player; his roots are more in classic rock and also the jam band style, Pink Floyd style. . . . It’s music for everybody, really; everybody can enjoy it.

The LateShift

Alternative rock, from Albany

Band members: Scott Somerville, vocals; Jake Lester, bass, Mike Davies, guitar; Sean Murphy, drums.

Q: What’s the story behind your band?

Scott Somerville: The lineup we have now has basically been together for a few years. We were all friends in high school, and we all had the same passion for music, but a couple of the guys were very musical. I myself joined the band — I was friends with Jake; we were in football and lacrosse together, and the conversation came up — “I like to sing,” and he said, “Our band needs a singer, why don’t you try out?” Since then we’ve been going pretty strong.

Q: Why will your band win the Battle of the Bands?

Somerville: I would say we’re a very personable band. People tend to like us; we’re a good outgoing group of guys. And musically-wise, my buddy Mike is one of the most amazing guitar players I’ve ever seen in my entire life. We have a lot of musical skill, and that definitely helps us. And our stage presence — during the shows there’s a lot of energy. We always have a lot of fun, and I think people really connect with us through that.

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