The floor won’t be breaking this year.
Local pub 55 Below is the quintessential bar. Complete with filmy plastic barstools, pool tables, and ancient arcade games, it is a perfect new location for Phi Mu Alpha’s annual Battle of the Bands. But atmosphere is secondary. The pub’s greatest qualification is its six-inch-thick concrete floors. After the floor broke at last year’s performance, the music honorary is not taking any chances.
This year’s musicians are amping up their game to bring down the house. Saturday’s battle will be waged between six bands: “Penny and the Mandimes,” “Great White North,” “The 72,” “Johnny Cole Murdock,” “Cat Stevens Conversion,” and “Roger Scotch and the Highballs.”
Juniors Owen Macaulay, and Alex Reid, sophomore Aidan Cyrus, and senior Luke Woltanski of the “Cat Stevens Conversion” will kick off the night with some crowd favorites. For all the band members except Woltanski this will be their inaugural Battle of the Bands performance, so they decided to stick with songs that they enjoy playing.
“Our style is a lot lighter, it is a lot of ’90s and 2000s music,” Macaulay said. “We were going for music we like to play rather than trying to get first place.”
Their set list includes “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Mr. Jones and Me,” “Bad, Bad, Leeroy Brown,” and a few others, Macaulay said.
This laid-back vibe embodies “Cat Stevens Conversion,” whose band title emerged from a conversation about Cat Stevens’ recent conversion to Islam.
Following “Cat Stevens Conversion,” “Johnny Cole Murdock” will charm the crowd with its Texas-style country music.
“Johnny Cole Murdock” consists of sophomore transfer student Johnny Cole Murdock and juniors Dillon Eason and Liam Bredberg. This group is no stranger to performance. Murdock, also a solo artist, met Eason at church this summer. They began playing together when Eason agreed to trade his egg shakers and djembe — a small african drum — for a bass guitar, and fill in for a band member last minute at a biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.
After spending a week sleeping in a tent while performing at the rally, Murdock and Eason both agree that their understanding of one another and their ability to communicate musically had blossomed.
Because they have performed together so much already, the stakes for Battle of the Bands are much lower. They already have a set list of more than 40 songs to choose from.
They’ll be debuting three original songs from Murdock’s EP, plus a country cover, and a “really special song that people wouldn’t expect,” Murdock said.
Murdock added sometimes his biggest fear is belching on stage.
“One of my biggest fears about performing is when you are drinking a bunch of fluids and singing,” Murdock said. “You just want to burp sometimes. I will be in the middle of some high note and I’ll just be like “urrrp.”
“Johnny Scotch and the Highballs” will follow Murdock’s band. The band features Phi Mu alumnus Ryan Burns ’18, as well as seniors Brian Freimuth, Carson Waites, Jake Rummel, and junior John Szczotka.
“The vibe of our band is going to be pretty retro, but I think a lot of rock is pretty retro,” Freimuth said. “We are going to be playing a lot of rock that sounds like it is straight out of the ’70’s, but we have some funky stuff to mix it up. Then again, the funky stuff is from the band The 1975, so it all evens out.”
Their set list is secret, but Freimuth promised “Johnny Scotch and the Highballs” will deliver some sounds as unique as its name.
“Ryan Burns has this really cool octave-effect pedal, and I don’t think anyone else will have one,” Freimuth said. “It will be pretty dope.”
“Great White North” will maintain the upbeat vibe with a mixture of classic rock, alternative, and pop.
Comprised of juniors Joseph Harvey, Phil Andrews, Ben Weide, and sophomore Sean O’Dea, “Great White North” promises to deliver a “fun, high-energy setlist that’s really going to let people move,” Weide said.
Though they are also keeping their set list under wraps, Weide promised they would throw in some audience suggestions.
Finally, “Penny and the Mandimes,” perhaps one of the most familiar groups on campus, plans to round out the night with classic rock and “stage presence,” senior and lead singer Claire Calvert said.
“Penny and the Mandimes” will use its longstanding cohesion to try and win the day.
“I think we have experienced enough of these events together that we have a pretty good idea of how to please the crowd,” Calvert said. “And so many people know these boys on campus, they know us, and we understand that and do our best to give them a good performance.”