Battle of the Bands displays students’ original style

Battle of the Bands displays students’ original style

FEELIN’ THE MUSIC: Jamming at Battle of the Bands, lead singer Taz Johnson and bassist Joey Leggetino perform with their band, Belmont. Belmont was one of the runner-up bands at the Battle of the Bands event, hosted by Interact club. Photo by Ashley Clark

John Park, staff reporter

A drummer strikes the last cymbal while a guitarist plays the finishing chord of a song. Their band, Zeitgeist, walks off the lit-up stage as the winners of this year’s Battle of the Bands, an annual event sponsored by the Interact club.

According to Interact President Ellie Giannakopoulos, Battle of the Bands is a nice way to showcase South’s talent, and a fun aspect of that is choosing a winning band at the end of the night.

“Kids come, and they listen to all the bands, and at the very end they vote on which band is their favorite,” Giannakopoulos said. “We actually started a traveling trophy with their names engraved.”

But not only was Battle of the Bands a chance for local bands to showcase their talent, it also raised $750 for a good cause. According to Giannakopoulos, that money will go to the club fund which is used to donate to various charities.

“It’s definitely meant to be a fun event,” Giannakopoulos said. “But it’s also to raise money to help the meal kitchen, the food pantry and other causes.”

The winning band, Zeitgeist, is comprised of guitarist Eli Joseph, vocalist Ted Steger, drummer Ryan Berkovich and bassist Paul Laccosse. According to Joseph, they were nervous going into their performance, because they were impressed by the previous bands. But, according to Steger, once on stage, the atmosphere was very “serene.”

Joseph said, “It was fun because we had a lot of friends come out to support us. So to get up there and perform was exciting, and I was nervous at the same time.”

Joseph and Steger had the same guitar teacher but first met each other through a mutual friend a year and a half ago, according to Joseph. Since then, they’ve formed a very cohesive band.

“I’m really close to all my band members, and I think that helps us as musicians because we have such a close relationship,” Joseph said.

Unlike some of the other bands, Zeitgeist performed two of their original songs, which they wrote collaboratively, according to Joseph.

“We all write, and then I’ll come up with something on guitar, and Ted will have some lyrics written up,” Joseph said. “Then we just try to make it form into one [song] and kind of play with everyone else’s ideas.”

Joseph was very surprised that his band won because many of the other bands had great performances, he said. Joseph and Steger both agreed that Berkeley and Kennicott, one of three runner-up bands, especially stood out.

“They did a cover of ‘Free Bird’, and I thought that was really good,” Joseph said. “I thought they were definitely going to win. I was amazed.”

Berkeley and Kennicott is made up of guitarists Jeremy Fine and Drew D’Astice, drummer Skyler From and bassist Chris Pecoraro. Although they were missing their lead singer, Cole Festenstein, Fine believes that they “just slayed it.”

“Skyler was playing so hard that he actually hit the crash cymbal off of the drum set,” Fine said. “It was awesome! The crowd went wild when it happened.”

Fine believes that whenever the band plays together, it is very unique because each member is very talented and strives to “perfect his own craft.”

“All the guys in the band are just super talented at the instruments that they play,” Fine said. “Skyler is an amazing drummer, Chris can play like literally any instrument [and] has perfect pitch. Drew is just a god on guitar, and Cole heads up tons of singing groups.”

One band that caught Fine’s attention was a blues rock band, Esoteric, because of their unique blues performance. Esoteric is comprised of guitarists Steger and Clayton Nimz, drummer Colin Quill and bassist Benjamin Friedland. Unlike in Zeitgeist, where Steger was the lead vocal, in Esoteric, he improvised on his electric guitar for the whole performance.

“We have a great guitarist in Ted Steger,” Nimz said. “He really knows what he’s doing. That guy can just jam forever.”

According to Steger, he prefers improvising over structural playing because of the freedom he can have with the notes and the creative rythym that style creates.

“I just play what I feel is most comfortable honestly,” Steger said. “[Practice is] always just at your friend’s house, and that’s just how you get used to it. You just jam for 30 minutes. During Esoteric, we did that every time we hung out, so it kind of became second nature.”

Another runner-up band was Belmont, which includes singer Taz Johnson, drummer Brian Lada, bassist Joey Legittino, lead guitarist Amal Sheth and rhythm guitarist Michael Torres. According to Legittino, the band evolved from a simple side project into a brotherhood that has embodied a unique sense of sound, stage presence and personality. Legittino hoped that Battle of the Bands would help get their name out, as they had just released a new EP.

“The way we go about things is totally different from other bands in general,” Legittino said. “We really like to mess with people, just kind of infuriate them.”

The Feedback was another blues rock band that performed. It includes guitarists Ryan Berkovich and Nathan Garrett, drummer Charith Wickrema and bassist Diego Rivera. The band was worried because they hadn’t practiced since August, according to Garrett, but an unexpected turn of events allowed them to get on stage.

“Well it turns out the night before [Battle of the Bands], Diego thought we wouldn’t sound good from lack of practice, and the group decided it would be best not to go on,” Garrett said. “I went to the show as a spectator, only to find that all my bandmates were there, and we hastily rehearsed five minutes before the show and got a nice reception.”

Garrett appreciates Battle of the Bands for the opportunities it presents, and says it is his favorite thing to do at South.

“I’m not too into sports; I’m really into music,” Garrett said. “And to be presented with the opportunity to do something like this is really beneficial to me because it allows me to practice what I love in front of a real audience.”

Many performers, including Fine, also echoed this sentiment.

“Opportunities like this, where you can just bring in local music and people can find out bands they like that are from around here, is just great,” Fine said.