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Review by Marc Hirsh (Boston Globe, 4/17/06)
Sometimes it's all in the luck of the draw. The lineups of the semifinals of this year's WBCN Rock 'n Roll Rumble, which took place Friday and Saturday at the Middle East, showcased one night of unpredictability and one of inevitability as eight bands fought for three slots at this weekend's finals.
Friday night went to AOR heartthrob popsters Scamper, while no-frills bar band the Rudds took the win on Saturday. As evidenced by synth theorists Campaign for Real Time nabbing the wild-card slot, Friday's competition was the more hard-won and unpredictable, with a slate that was more eclectic and, perhaps not coincidentally, stronger. Rumble host Shred confirmed that the voting from the five judges was all over the place, with three of the bands getting at least one first-place vote. The audience was divided as well, as the announcement of Scamper's victory was met with almost as much dissent as approval.
We're All Gonna Die started the semis off with slightly prog-flavored metal. Undeniably tight, the power trio wound its way through multi-part songs like a grungier Queens of the Stone Age. Scamper, on the other hand, sounded more like local rockers Waltham playing dress-up as the Click Five. With its tight harmony vocals, agreeably poppy material and the choreographed routine performed by bassist Brendan Boogie and guitarist Nate Rogers as Keith Michel sang the first verse of "The Proof Is Altogether Too Late," Scamper could have been the band playing in a prom scene of an early-'80s teen film.
Appomattox followed with a tense ball of high-tension-wire guitar, chunks of discordance and shuddering rhythms. Campaign for Real Time seemed to put the lie to the current crop of new wave revivalists like the Bravery and She Wants Revenge. A riot of information on the small stage, the band was like post-grad electroclash, taking new wave's synth washes, danceable rhythms and mechanized guitar scratches and finding something new to concoct out of the ingredients.
Shred described the voting on Saturday as more decisive, and indeed, the winner seemed clearer and less debatable. As the most straightforward rock 'n' roll band of the semis, the Rudds distilled much of the best pre-punk rock of the 1970s, from Todd Rundgren to Elvin Bishop, into a spirited set. Despite the simplicity of their presentation, they had more of a sense of old-school showmanship, with leader John Powhida's simultaneously fey and sexually charged persona just outsize enough to celebrate the transformative power of rock.
With the twitchy energy of guitarists Matt Scott and Jon Day, Harris funneled a hint of a math rock sensibility into angular songs populated by jagged fragments of space. The band closed the evening with an ultimately futile last-minute assault on the Rudds' ascendancy, building drama with an audience-participation chant that continued even after the band left the stage and the house lights and music came back up.
Taxpayer's airy, anthemic guitars washed over the room while the rhythm section gave the music just enough sharpness to grab hold of. A cover of Cheap Trick's "Surrender" didn't serve the band as well, with those same guitars dulling the song's edges. Eyes Like Knives had better luck with the Alan Parsons Project's "Eye in the Sky," which worked well with a similar airiness, but the band's originals were less focused and vocalists Scott Toomey and Rebekka Takamizu seemed detached when they sang.
Review by Sarah Rodman (Boston Herald, 4/17/06)
The final gauntlet has been thrown in the 28th WBCN Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble.
Twenty-four bands began the journey toward local domination, and this Friday night downstairs at the Middle East semifinalist winners Scamper and the Rudds will square off against each other and wildcard act Campaign For Real Time for the title of Boston’s best band. The special guests capping off the night will be Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins’ side project, the Coattail Riders.
Nattily attired in suits, the jubilant power popsters of Scamper bested a wildly divergent lineup during last Friday night’s semis.
Heavy rockers We’re All Gonna Die impressed with their teeth-rattling bottom end and nimble riffage.
Appomattox trafficked in a Pixies-like brand of yowling modern rock while Campaign For Real Time combined great energy and a heap of “Revenge of the Nerds” goofiness - fans clad in rain ponchos waved flashlights - with a quirky melange of rap, rock and soul to score the wildcard spot.
Saturday night’s lineup proved equally disparate, even within the groups themselves.
Harris offered an odd but crowd-pleasing combo of emo-jamband-new wave sounds. The quieter Eyes Like Knives produced everything from ambient soft rock to punkish grooves, and threw in a left field cover of the wan Alan Parsons Project hit from the ’80s, "Eye in the Sky." Taxpayer was a solid, straight-up rock band with impassioned vocals that performed an exuberant version of Cheap Trick’s "Surrender." The flamboyant, hard-charging style of the Rudds took the night with their catchy tunes, tight harmonies and vibrant showmanship.
The soft underbelly of the Rumble was revealed this year as each of the bands graciously talked up the other groups from the stage, and members of Eyes Like Knives and Harris even helped each other pick out their outfits.
This year in particular, says Rumble curator and WBCN-FM (104.1) DJ Shred, has been marked by that kind of camaraderie.
Shred notes that on Saturday night he saw a member of Scamper decked out in a brand new We’re All Gonna Die T-shirt.
The victor of this year’s contest walks away with more than bragging rights. They also win a boatload of truly valuable prizes including $3,000 in cash, recording time, free mastering, CD duplication, posters, a banner, a set of cymbals from Sabian, a guitar from First Act guitar studio, free promotion and publicity in radio and national publications, print ads, free tattoos and even a pair of eyeglasses, the better to see while they rock you. The winners also score an opening gig for 30 Seconds to Mars in May and the Freedom Rally on the Common. (Each participant also gets paid $200.)
Shred won’t speculate on a winner - "whoever gets the highest score," he quips - but is pleased with the turnout for the preliminaries and the semifinals, the latter of which were moved to the smaller club upstairs this year. "There was an excitement to see and check out a lot of bands this year," he says, and the packed crowds would no doubt agree.
Review by Northeast Performer magazine (May 2006)
The semifinals for WBCN's Rumble competition fell on Good Friday this year. In short, the night was a doubly important one, filled with anticipation both for Easter Sunday, and for the announcement of the winning band at the end of the night.
One of the wild card acts, We're All Gonna Die, filled the opening slot. The band's music matched the bleakness of its name with each song unfurling with rumbling, humorless intensity. Front man Jim Healey's vocals left quite an impression on Scamper, whose members took the stage in charmingly mismatched suits. "How about We're All Gonna Die?" remarked Scamper guitarist Brendan Boogie. "They made my asshole hurt." Boogie's band then launched into a sugar-sweet set of sing-along pop tunes, three-part harmony, and semi-choreographed synchronized jumps.
It was hard to know quite what to make of Appomattox, three solemn, earnest-faced guys who followed Scamper with a series of tempered, muscular rock songs. The band's music, built on a blend of complex dissonance and simple lyrics, was an intriguing listen, but failed to get the crowd moving. Their effort at theatrics - bringing three Bush-masked dancers to the stage during one of their songs - elicited at least one boo from the audience.
The Campaign for Real-Time, on the other hand, generated movement before the members even reached the stage. Their hip hop/rock/funk, propelled by glow sticks and raincoats, made for the most energetic, and certainly most dance-worthy, act of the night.