Announced at 1:45 a.m. to an audience that, by that time, consisted of little more than band members and their immediate families, San Diego State student DJ Love took first place at Aztec Nights’ Battle of the Bands last Friday.
Through the use of a text message voting system, DJ Love and his live drummer bested eight other acts with a Girl Talk-inspired mash-up set that easily received the best crowd reaction of the night by combining everything from Guns N’ Roses to David Guetta.
Opening act Keevo took second place with a Skrillex-heavy DJ set that caused members of the audience to spontaneously Hula-Hoop and spin poi with glow strings. The last electronic performer of the night, mix artist DJ Holiday Home, was plagued by technical issues and a waning crowd as he struggled through his set before eventually closing out with Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.”
Solo performer Michael Shenk pulled up a stool and played both blues and acoustic songs in his original set, adding a coffeehouse feel the event was sorely lacking.
Pop-punk was thoroughly represented at the show, thanks to the efforts of Small City Calling and Keep the Change. Despite a broken string and no apparent backup guitar available, Keep the Change still managed to keep the crowd pogoing through its 15-minute set. Small City Calling, whose singer announced “This is the largest stage we’ve ever played on,” upped the ante for its set by tossing out T-shirts into the crowd while smashing into each other during a cover of Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy.”
If the Lit cover wasn’t enough late ‘90s nostalgia, the two ska bands Neveready and The Left Coasters recall the heyday of Reel Big Fish and Buck-O-Nine, complete with onstage skanking and synchronized horn sections. The ‘90s influence throughout the competition reached its apex with third-place finalist Straight Trippin. Straight Trippin’s set borrowed the Sublime combination of punk, ska and reggae, down to the affected Bradley Nowell-styled vocals.
Each of the finalists won studio time to produce a professionally mastered demo courtesy of Delirious Records.