By guest blogger Mercy James
I’ve played at least 5 different Battle of the Bands over the years.
It started in high school when all the bands in the suburban wasteland of Coral Springs, Florida would converge on the roller skating rink once a year for a showdown.
The big deal in those days was stunts. The wackier you were the better you went over with the crowd. I rode a skateboard on stage with my band (Matrix) and wore various wigs and masks and even jumped on a trampoline.
Although it all made for a good show, we never won. Part of our problem was the way they picked the winners… a show of hands. Absolutely the dumbest way to pick a winner ever. First of all it basically was simply a count of how many people you brought in… not really a judgment on your show. But you also had to rely on the counting skills of the MC.
Nevertheless… there was some talented folks in my town… including future members of Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids and Saigon Kick.
The best I ever did in a Battle of the Bands was at the WPBZ Battle of the Bands in West Palm Beach. I always had a problem putting a band together down there for some reason. So I entered the contest as a solo acoustic singer. Amazingly I won my round and advanced to the finals.
Well perhaps not so amazingly actually. One of the bands I was up against was a techno-rockabilly band who had some technical difficulties. It seemed that most of their sound was generated by computer or was pre-recorded. And unfortunately they had computer problems. So even though they had a drummer, bassist, guitarists and a vocalist… they simply couldn’t perform without the computer.
I actually had to fly back down to Florida to perform in the finals as I had moved to Boston right after my preliminary round not thinking I had a chance to win. If I were to win the finals, I would win cash, equipment and studio time. I really wanted to win but still thought it was a longshot being solo acoustic boy.
And as I took the stage… my insecurity was amplified by the mass of skinhead punk dudes in the audience shouting profanity at me and giving me the finger. I wasn’t really playing folky acoustic stuff for the most part. In fact, I thought maybe some of my punkier numbers could win them over. But then I realized that they were fans and members of the band that was following me. They weren’t just being punks… they actually wanted me to lose.
The worst was this one guy who during all my songs gave me the finger and kept motioning his finger across his neck like he wanted to kill me. I was starting to get really annoyed at this guy midway through my set as it was pretty distracting.
So as I was about to launch into my song about falling in love with a skinhead girl (“Little Miss Swastika”) I said “This song is dedicated to the bald fat guy standing in the middle!” Not a wise thing to do. First of all it alienated all the bald and fat people in the audience (a surprisingly large contingent). But worse… it sent an unstable punk dude into kill mode.
As I played my tune, I could see the crazed skinhead push through the crowd on his way to the stage. I had no idea what his plans were. But I didn’t have much time to ponder it as before I knew it he was standing right next to me while I was mid-song. I think he was a little confused as to what to do too as I couldn’t really defend myself while playing acoustic guitar. But rather than punching me (or stabbing me) he just pushed me with extreme force until I smashed into the ground (luckily my guitar survived).
He left the stage and I took to the mic and called security. The crowd (and the judges) was thoroughly confused. Many thought it was part of the act. But when the bouncers descended and grabbed the guy, people started getting even more uncomfortable as it was obviously not part of the show.
As they dragged him away he shouted “I’m going to fucking kill you! As soon as you go to your car I’m going to fucking kill you!”
The police showed up and remained a presence for the rest of my set and the following set of the punk guys. All my friends were completely freaked out and thought there was a good chance I would be killed later on.
I wasn’t. But I lost. I think I could have won too because that punk band sucked. But I let my anger get the best of me and I caused a scene that didn’t need to happen. Lesson learned.
The next day the guys on the morning show talked about my performance and the incident more than they talked about the winner. They even played one of my tunes. So it wasn’t all bad I guess. And that’s my story about a battle of the bands that turned into an actual battle.
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