The stage at Marquette High School rang out with local talent this week at the Battle of the Bands, where Ballwin's Austin Jones and others rocked, jazzed and thrashed the night away. The event served as a fundraiser for the freshman class, as well as an opportunity for Marquette students to showcase their musical talents.
“This is our third year doing this,” said Jones, a senior who performed in two of the night's seven acts in front of a panel of judges and amply sized audience. His first group “Some Bluegrass Band" went well beyond a standard roots or bluegrass sound. Highlights were Jones’s vocals, which were reminiscent of an early Bob Dylan, in addition to the sightly presence of an acoustic upright bass.
But for the boys in "Some Bluegrass Band," the final word wasn't spoken with folk music. That same lineup returned at the end of the night as “The Greene-Jones Quartet Ft. Jacob Schroeder," adding senior saxophone player Alex Greene and switching gears from lilting bluegrass to fast and passionate jazz.
They started their set with “Isn’t She Lovely” and the guys added their own flavor by picking up the pace and letting Greene’s saxophone fill in for Stevie Wonder’s vocals. Few outsiders likely could have guessed what followed, however, when the band broke out into George Michael's 1984 smooth jazz hit, "Careless Whisper." Once again, the sax took center stage as Greene belted it out to the rafters, but equal credit is due to the rest of the band for supporting him with a tight enough backing to transport the audience into an 80s romance movie.
The rest of the show was a mixed bag of bands that spanned several genres. “A Modest Proposal,” a self described “hardcore” rock group made the speakers buzz with crunchy power chords and gravelly lyrics.
One group who did garner big popular support was alternative-rock group “Don’t Believe the Hype.” Their set was loaded with contemporary hits by “The Black Keys” and “The White Stripes”, and their engaging stage persona got the audience clapping along and laughing at their on-stage antics.
The evening had its share of solo acts as well. The first featured acoustic blues and folk hits that were waiting for the young guitarist to really let loose to match his technical skills. The second was a bit more innovative, including a ukulele rendition of “Creep” by alternative band “Radiohead” (Editor's Note: All linked songs were recorded by other artists, not students from Marquette High School, and should only be used as a point of reference).
Ultimately, the first place award and $250 dollar prize went to “One Star People,” a band that modeled itself on classic rock acts from the seventies and eighties. Their great stage presence made them look as though they would be just as comfortable in a packed arena, and their fun and lively music easily won the crowd and the panel of judges.
The award was not met with unanimous acclaim however. A few of the musicians lamented the change away from audience voting like in previous years. In an effort to raise more funds this year, students also could even purchase votes to distribute to each band. This new approach led some to question the impact of high marks from the judges in favor of popular voting.
Despite those controversies, the overall feeling of the night was simply summarized best by Jones.
“We had a lot of fun.”