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Shadrach Strehle plays bass for The Wineboxes. Courtesy

The drum set that knocked down five ceiling tiles with its stage-shaking beat now supported the boots of senior Jake Coonradt. His back to the audience, he timed his return to the ground with the final strum of his guitar solo. And 250 pairs of feet beat the Elk’s Lodge floor into submission.

The Phi Mu Alpha men’s music fraternity held its annual Battle of the Bands Nov. 10, giving six student bands the opportunity to play 30-minute sets in front of more than 250 students. The $5 entry fees ($3 pre-sale) will go toward charities chosen by the top three bands.

“We looked for bands that really played as a group,” said sophomore Carson Waites, a member of Phi Mu Alpha. “It’s easy to play a bunch of instruments together but difficult to play in a cohesive manner.”

Waites, a member of Coonradt’s concert-winning band Dick Whiskey and the Short Stacks, and senior Aaron Andrews worked with senior Mark Naida to determine which bands would perform at the battle. Both Naida and Waites said they were pleased with how well every band played.

Audience members voted for their favorite band by placing marbles into jars. Dick Whiskey and the Short Stacks placed first, The Wineboxes took second, and Penny and the Mandimes finished third. Catalogue, the Village Idiots, and Clemons’ Lemons also played.

The night kicked off with a robotic voice recording intoning: “Hello, our name is Catalogue. We will be playing all original songs. We hope you enjoy.”

Catalogue is a recently formed duo of international EDM artist Declan James, a freshman, and sophomore Matt Montgomery. While James created the backing music, Montgomery provided passionate vocals as the room began to fill with people.

“I felt like I was listening to the soundtrack of ‘Stranger Things’ but with words,” said Associate Professor of Classics Eric Hutchinson. “But I liked it.”

Hutchinson, along with Associate Professor of English Dutton Kearney and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Lee Cole, helped judge the sets, with their ratings affecting each band’s ranking in the competition.

Penny and the Mandimes played next, performing rock ’n’ roll hits including John Mellencamp’s “Hurt So Good.” With the exception of freshmen Dominic Bulger on keys and Jacob Gieselman on bass, the band was a sophomore effort. Drummer Adam Buchmann and guitarists Patrick Votel and Zane Mabry formed the core group, enlisting the vocal talents of Claire Calvert. Calvert said Buchmann approached her about singing because she could “sell the theatrical part” of their performance.

“Stage presence exceeds office hours presence in this case,” Cole said.

The show moved to turn-of-the-century punk rock with The Village Idiots, who opened with Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacey’s Mom” and finished with an intense yet reverent performance of “Car Radio” by Twenty One Pilots. The band featured juniors Calvin Kinney on lead vocals, Ethan Greb on drums, Matt Kendrick and Christian Yiu on guitar, and sophomore Rowan Macwan on bass.

“When you guys played the Twenty One Pilots song, I got goosebumps,” Kearney said. “It seems like you all really dealt that music and in feeling the music, we feel it, too.”

Then came the almost drum-set-buckling show from Dick Whiskey and the Short Stacks, who covered rock ’n’ roll as well as some original music. Coonradt provided vocals along with his guitar solos, while Waites switched between keyboard, vocals, and bass. Andrews rounded out the trio on drums.

“We kept changing our name, but nobody knew who we were and half the time we didn’t know who we were. It’s an identity crisis,” Coonradt told the audience, before advertising the band’s range of services. “We do children’s parties and funerals.”

Despite Coonradt’s antics, the surprise of the night was freshman John Stanley’s guest appearance on vocals for a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The audience became a mass of waving arms as Coonradt played his guitar with a violin bow, while Stanley performed a song he’d learned just two days earlier.

The band’s performance prompted music department chairman, James Holleman, who has judged the battle for the previous 15 years, to take the mic for a moment.

“I don’t mean disrespect to the other bands, but amateur hour ended about half an hour ago,” he said, before returning to the crowd to watch the next performance.

Clemons’ Lemons came into existence, after Naida threw junior Gill West into a Facebook message group with several female musicians. The result was a blazer-clad combination of junior Domine Clemons on vocals, senior Callie Ring on bass, freshman Jenny Buccola on keyboard, sophomore Luke Woltanski on a pink guitar, and West on drums.

“If you haven’t lost your voice, scream louder,” Clemons shouted before performing a set that ended with Fallout Boy’s “Thanks for the Memories.”

The night ended with The Wineboxes. The Phi Mu Alpha group started with a barefoot Strehle playing bass for Pixie’s “Where is My Mind.” He took the stage alongside junior Ryan Burns on guitar and vocals, and seniors Dean Sinclair on drums and Noah Weinrich on guitar. The group grew with each song it played, adding seniors Josh Liebhauser on keyboard, Naida on vocals, and Jacob Hann on trombone as well as junior Matt Nolan on trumpet. A guest appearance from senior Brigette Hall’s oboe completed the band’s rendition of “Redbone” by Childish Gambino.

“It was nice to see Dean play with two hands once in awhile,” Kearney said. “Just a joy to watch.”

By the end of the night, the floor was a little worse for wear and five square holes gaped in the ceiling, but the greatest impression was the bands’ performances.

“We were surprised by how well the bands who came together rather last minute played,” Waites said. “Also, every band that played sounded really great, which we were extremely happy with.”

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Joe Pappalardo
He is from Loveland, Ohio. After getting hands-on reporting experience at a naval battle, he now works as the assistant Web Editor for the Collegian. One of the last members of Hillsdale’s computer science program, Joe is pursuing a marketing major and journalism minor. Email: jpappalardo@hillsdale.edu | @joepappalardo95