Battle Royale: Band Battle 5 Comes To Jammin' Java
Toy Store Riot and others play at four-day music event
For a lot of us, the landscape of rock and roll is draped in shadow right now. Radio is soulless, record stores are vanishing, everybody seems to sound like somebody you once heard, just not as good.
Still, Jammin' Java is doing their best to light things up again. This week, in the aftermath of Independence Day, they will let democracy rule. Meaning, of course, they're holding The Mid-Atlantic Band Battle 5. Lots of intriguing-sounding groups will duke it out in attempt to get more recognition, expand the fan base and win the $2,500 Grand Prize.
People who think that rock has become too same-y and homogeneous, will want to come see. And be proven wrong.
"We started the band competition in the summer of 2009 and it's been a huge success in every way," said David Silberstein, Jammin' Java's Assistant Booking Agent. "That first time we put out the word that we were going to be having a Band Battle, we received 150 submissions for 25 slots. But the club owner, Daniel Brindley and I, listened to every last CD. It took us 3 days."
The idea, Silberstein said, is to promote local acts and try to get them to the next level.
"We're trying to showcase as much regional talent as we can," he said.
He adds, that any band can make the cut, no matter what sort of music they play.
"I tend to listen to a lot of Indie music," he said. "But we're totally open as far as genres go. We have every sort of music from pop to punk represented on the four nights."
Silberstein said there will be four preliminary rounds of bands and then the winners of each round will face off in August.
The competition is so popular that the club expects to host another one in early 2012.
As a member of one the competing bands, Jerred Lazar likes the "DIY aspect" of this competition. He says it fits right in with the spirit of his exciting, tough little band, Toy Store Riot.
"We're influenced by punk and pop and hardcore," said Lazar, whose band plays on Thursday at 9:30. "But I really like what Bruce Springsteen stands for. He says you have to make a connection with your fans, by writing about what you feel and then bringing it to the people. This competition connects up with that nicely. It's really bands and the fans and nothing else in the way."
Toy Shop Riot is indicative of the open-minded and adventurous spirit of the bands playing at Jammin' Java this week. Their mix of pop and hardcore is spiced with personal, sometimes tragic story lines, like the tune "Wise Man," which was inspired by the suicide of one of Lazar's closest friends. Other songs seem sort of socially-relevant, but perhaps that's because of their urgency.
This songwriter insists his group is not exactly Rage Against The Machine.
"We're not really political," he said. "It's not like we have no politics, but they're not really imbued in the songs. Frankly, we want to have a lot of fans and we don't want to turn off anyone who might have a different slant on things than us."
Lazar's band, who "formed so recently, we're just starting to record demos," is thrilled to be bring their musical message to the club.
"With the industry in such disarray, we think that playing live for music fans is the best way to spread the word now," he said. "That includes house parties and other offbeat venues. Any way that people can hear us and feel connected is great."
Currently, Toy Store riot is only playing local gigs, but expect that to change once they have something to sell at their shows.
"We're going to be doing a show at The Velvet Lounge soon, too," Lazar said. "But we have no immediate plans to tour. It's sort of foolish until you also have a CD you can sell at shows. But, with luck, that will happen, hopefully, by the fall."
In the meantime, there are more pressing matters.
"We get 15 minutes on Thursday," Lazar said. "We're a pretty speedy band, so we think we can maybe do five songs in that time. We're just going to get up there and blow people out of their seats. That's the plan, anyway."
Jammin' Java's Mid-Atlantic Band Battle starts at 7 p.m. every night through Friday, with the finals in August. Tickets are $10. For more info on the bands and the competition go to www.jamminjava.com or call 703-255-1566