Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.
Date: Judgement Day.
Venue: The trenches.
Crowd: On our side.
There are two types of Battle of the Bands. One is a festering wasteland of arduous futility created in the degenerate filth laden mind of someone who truly despises musicians. The other is worse.
The misconception is that there can be merit in judging one band to be better than another. The problem for me is that punk is about community. You forge friendships in the damp infested basement shows that transcend prejudice and defy societal boundaries. There isn’t a band we’ve played with that I’ve disliked; Nor a musician I’ve shared a stage with that has deserved anything but respect and love.
Except The Monochrome Rainbows. They were insufferable.
Over the years, The Underdogs have had the distinctly underwhelming privilege of experiencing both types of battle of the bands. We’ll call them, for the record, Type Sh** and Type Sh**ter. The latter, and by far worse of the two, is judged by the fans. When you reduce this model to its component parts, what you essentially have is a competition judged on how many friends a band can drag to a show. The problem with this model for us is that The Underdogs have no friends. None that like us enough to come along to a show to raise their hands at the designated time anyway.
Type Sh** battles on the other hand are judged by a panel. Whilst this is indeed the least flawed of the two, the caveat would simply be this; the Hindenburg was the least flawed blimp design of the 1920s. We’ve played our fair share of these, but one particular appearance stands out.
The battle was in North Kent. A venue we had not yet seen. We arrive in plenty of time, a miracle in itself. Jake must’ve sacrificed a teeny bopper before we left because this would not be the first time the punk gods rule in our favour.
As I said, punk is about community. Helping your brothers in their time of need. But something about Battle of the Bands just turns people into insufferable f***wits. The atmosphere is frostier than an eskimos underwear drawer, and just as demoralising to our self-confidence.
“Hi, we’re The Underdogs.” We offer to the nearest musician who breaks protocol and makes eye contact.
“Ugh.” Comes the response. Punks aren’t typically known for their witty repartee, but this was going to be a long, conversation-less night.
We are on immediately after a band we’ll call The Monochrome Rainbows. They are what we aspire to be; that is to say, they clearly have talent. By the end of the set the crowd are so in awe they’d follow the singer to the ends of the Earth. The final song includes a guitar solo so technical and dripping with prowess you’d think the guitarist was possessed by a punk rock demon. Conversely, ours trips up getting onstage.
Relative to The Monochrome Rainbows our performance is a thing of faultless adequacy. We were vanilla ice cream on a Tuesday; fine in the moment, but ultimately uninspiring to the point you’d wonder why you bothered.
The punk gods, in their infinite wisdom, choose to brainwash the judges and award us first place.
Following the decision, and given the restless crowd, we use our own version of eyebrow based semaphore to plan a swift exit. But as we bundle our mediocrity into the car, I realise my bladder has other ideas. As you’ve no doubt already aware from reading these tales, my bladder does not play nicely when full. I make the executive decision to void the contents in a legal place this time, and swiftly visit the little front man’s room.
I walk in and find two members of The Monochrome Rainbows with a marker pen permanently furnishing the wall of the bathroom with some fresh literature. Furthermore, The Underdogs are the subject of the aforementioned critique likening our collective character to that of female genitalia. It occurs to me they don’t like us.
They turn to face me. I open my mouth to say something about the new sweary wall motif, but think better of it. For one, they are much, much bigger than me and disinclined to agree with whatever I have to say, given their assumptions about my personality’s similarity to a sexual organ. Secondly, and most importantly, I’m full of urine and afraid if they beat me up I’ll wet myself.
But they don’t recognise me.
In the ensuing, panicked wee, I rack my brains to figure out why my rear end is not being irrevocably kicked. I consider the theory that perhaps they think I look like I could handle myself in a street combat situation, but settle on the idea that they probably didn’t bother to watch our set. Ergo, they have no idea who The Underdogs are, just that they were bested in musical battle by them.
And so, The Underdogs gained their second nemesis.
The moral of the story is this; Battle of the Bands shows can get in the sea. The losers always think they should win. The winners rarely deserve to win. And the punk community? Well, that’s the real loser.
And The Monochrome Rainbows. They also lost.
Photo by Jakob Jankiewicz via Flickr.