Monday, October 17, 2005

Striving For Better at Rutgers SLAMfest 

Jukebox jury, L-R: Michael Caplan (Or Music), me,
Doug Drohan (MTV), Brian Pacris (The Syndicate)

Striving For Better, a young five-piece rock group from Williamstown, South Jersey, won the Battle Of The Bands at Rutgers' first annual SLAMfest Friday. Though still in need of some seasoning, the band's brand of emo-pop resisted cliches with guitar riffs that (probably unintentionally) recalled Tom Scholz, Angus Young, and Alex Lifeson. Lead singer Justin, 18, is still in high school, and his performance style was a strangely compelling emo version of Morrissey crossed with David Lee Roth, though he looks and sounds nothing like either of those consummate frontmen.

It was fun being a judge. We steered clear of Cowellisms and kept the criticism constructive. Some of the band members were overheard grumbling outside that we had said negative things about them. A Rutgers staffer said he put it in perspective for them, noting that any young band should consider themselves lucky to have a captive audience of music business professionals giving them a free critique. That apparently cheered them up some.

It was the last of a stretch of dreary rainy days, but it was still fun to walk around the personal time machine that is the College Avenue Campus. It's weird to see what's changed and what's remained, but the memories that are triggered just by being there are always quite a kick.

Before getting on the train to leave town, I had my first-ever Fat Darrell, one of the many riduculo-sandwiches that was spun off from the ever-popular Fat Cat at the famous grease trucks some time after I graduated in the mid-'90s. It wasn't altogether awful, but it's surely the sort of sandwich that must taste far better if you're drunk. One wonders how much Maxim had to drink before they selected it the best sandwich in the nation last year.

Pics of the bands, the fashion show, and more on the SLAMfest site. Attendance was disappointing, but it was a new event, it had been raining all week, the location had been moved, it was the day after Yom Kippur, and it probably started a little too early in the day. Hopefully they'll have it again next year with a better turnout, because it's a cool idea.

Note to the technically inclined: this is my first post using Flickr. I'm tired of random strangers eating up bandwidth by poaching photos I've posted to my ftp site on their MySpace pages and whatnot.

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