This Saturday the Cannabis reform coalition hosted its annual Battle of the Bands with the grand prize of an opening slot at one Amherst’s biggest area events, Extravaganja. The event was held in the auditorium at the Mercy House at began at 6PM when opening act and event MCs 
Solo Sexx took the main stage to stir up the growing crowd. The group, comprised of two UMass students Julia Sherratt and Heather McCormick who described their act as “a big middle finger to a consumerist, male-driven circle jerk of a hip hop game.” The ostentatious duo sported some outrageous outfits including lime green pants and silver jackets while running through songs like “Balle Funk” and “Nursery Grime.” Mixing their spit-fire flow with hilarious choruses like the repeated “white people dancing”over thumbing techno beat, served to get people dancing before the start of the show.

Next up was another eclectic local act, Grex. The elaborate collective included acoustic guitarists, bongo players and violinists in a sound mash-up that sounded reminiscent to a less cohesive and more downbeat version to Gogol Bordello’s outrageous gypsy punk. Even if the group’s sound strayed far from this characterization they certainly looked the part, with most of the band perched indian style on-stage sporting dreadlocks and thrift store tights. The group meandered in and out of control for a bit often spiraling into chanting and drumming that felt meandering and lacked a specific focus. However when the group found its way it proved itself capable of dredging up a head-turning groove. 

By now a more than sizable crowd had gathered at the event with many dropping 5 dollars for the “suggested donations” which were then denoted with an accompanying sign bearing the slogan, “strictly enforced.” The event was well paced allowing enough time for the crowd to catch some of the lovely summer air between sets, which were filled periodically by local guitarist Damon Reeves who played some impromptu covers. 

Next up was one of the highlights of the evening, the eventual winners of the competition Hampshire College’s jazz-funk outift, The Bubonic Souls. Easily the largest band of the evening the Souls had not only the standard band combination of guitar, drums and bass but also came equipped with a horn section comprised of a flute player and saxophonist. If the band’s sound wasn’t enough to turn heads, then the bands sultry lead singer was. However she was not merely eye candy for the band but split time playing lead guitar and taking lead vocal duties on some of the groups songs. Tight, energetic and highly danceable, the band were an easy pick for as one of the leaders out of the gate even despite some of their more lounge act leanings. 

The Handsome Truants followed suit, either disproving their name or perhaps proving it by avoiding other obligations. Despite having a tough opening act to follow the group quickly took the stage and whipped the crowd up to its previous frenzy. Consisting of 6 members the collective also includes three UMass grad students who comprised the guitar and drum sections of the band. However by far the most interesting aspect of the band was its enigmatic lead singer who crooned like old-time soul artists over the group’s contemporary take on old school rock ‘n roll. The songs road hard on their well composed drum beats which gave the crowd a chance to jump up and down and enjoy themselves. 

Later acts included the events other winners, local funk outfit Shokazoba and heavy metal rockers Outer Stylie.



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