Battle of the bands yields Springfest opener

Competition was in full swing at Billings on Friday, when six bands went head to head at The Last Band Standing to win the opening spot at Springfest. The free event, which was put on by SA Concerts, had a surprisingly great turnout. There was a variety of fried food and dips, and immediately upon entry each guest was given a ballot so that the judges could count votes at the end of the show to determine the winner. Billings’s North Lounge was covered in Christmas lights and balloons. Michelle Buteau, the outspoken comedian hosting the event, caused a stir with the audience and kept people engaged throughout. Her jokes, which alluded to sex, Facebook and race, added a touch of awkwardness to the audience’s laughter, to which she replied, “I don’t know if you’re smart or racist!” The competition between bands was tough; each had something unique to offer and all drew a slew of friendly supporters. The Feverbreakers kicked off the night with an entirely original set list, which included “Whip Balloon” a sick beat, with special guest Alex Smith tearing up the mic with his impressive raps. The soulful lead vocal work of Ryan Headly was quite powerful, and lead guitarist Erik Fosse proved himself a talent through his solos. Following was the Stereo-Police, who claimed to be of obscure influence, but couldn’t help but sound poppy. However, their sound was tight and,brothers Charlie and Billy Rugger played in perfect harmony. The Sepia Tones, composed of mostly freshman, and together only since September, have already played a show at Higher Ground. You couldn’t help but shake your hips to The Donkeys’ funky grooves, and Dan Jacobson’s original lyrics to “Get a beatle haircut.” The Donkeys threw bongo player Zachary Cohen into the mix to spice things up, and Alex Smith reappeared last minute to rhyme against Jacobson’s funktastic shrieks in “Cheeseburger Donkey.” The second the clock struck 10:30, a stampede of “man-fans” assembled at the stage for “The Dawson Leary Project,” and for about 10 minutes Billings turned into a pseudo-rave. This threesome seemed to appeal to the large group of trance fans present, and they were the only group to have specific lighting effects arranged for their performance. Alex Schwartz gave an impressive guitar solo, to emphasize one of the many talents the band possessed. To close, Chainlink Gunlove took the stage with ease, channeling the Grateful Dead. The highlight of their performance was when the all-male quartet invited senior Christina Stang up to sing a mind-blowing rendition of “Whipping Post,” by the Allman Brothers. Not a single individual in the audi?ence could take their eyes off of this petite girl, awed at the colossal voice that came out of her. Stang, who has been singing with the band for about a year, could attest to the importance of being comfortable with your band-mates. “It makes such a difference when you care about the people you’re playing with,” she said. By the time the winner was announced, most had shuffled out and moved on for the night. Only band members and a few friends were left eagerly awaiting the results. Finally, one of the judges announced that The Dawson Leary project had won, and would be the opener at Springfest. The group was ecstatic at the results. “It feels amazing,” said sophomore drummer Steve Putnam. When asked whether he was excited to open for Talib Kweli, he replied, “Yes, very excited. It only means good things for our band.” The band, mostly inspired by The New Deal, had just put their songs together in the past three weeks. Despite last minute preparation, these guys were entirely confident and are likely to give a prodigious performance come Saturday.