This article originally appears on Boston Band Crush ). Band #3, Battle Toadz rocked fast and rocked hard.
Set Highlight: The unique cover of “Everlong”
Henry Beguiristain (Aloud)
When Ashley asked us to do this months ago it freaked me out, which is exactly why I agreed to do it. I’d been anxious about it all week and was curious (or scared) how it was all going to turn out. Coffee, cupcakes, and muffins were had; friends were greeted, and forms were signed. In all the years I’ve known most of these folks, I can say this was the first time I’d seen any of them before 3pm. After everyone showed up, our band assignments were handed out. I was in band #8.
I was happy to find out that Matt Graber would be drumming; I’d been listening to Sarah Rabdau’s album on repeat for the last couple of weeks and I really like it. It also turned out I met Matt years ago, back in 2002 when Aloud was but a screaming infant and he was drumming for a band called Cho Experiment. Eldridge Rodriguez (henceforth referred to as E.R.) materialized next (I found it heartening that he remembered a bill we shared last year in New York), and Nick Balkin, whose band Logan 5 and the Runners I really enjoy, appeared shortly thereafter (like a true asshole I forgot Nick’s name twice, but this was corrected within the hour and will never happen again). Ben Weiser from Diamond Mines rounded out our quintet.
Coming up with a name gave us a little trouble. I suggested The Holy Mountain, after the cult film of the same name that I both saw the eve before and blamed for my hangover that morning. E.R. suggested Bubonic Snake, but it didn’t take for some reason I can’t remember. Nick suggested the raunchy sounding Parts For Warm Things, but Ben thought this was “too sexual” (Ben, without irony, suggested Beaver Cleaver afterward, but this too was vetoed). Aztec Frogs (again, based on The Holy Mountain) was the road that led to Battle Toadz, and everyone was happy. An elaborate plan to get into a fight with a band called Double Dragon never materialized like I hoped.
It didn’t take long for us to get started. Ultimately, Matt was the genesis of all three songs, pounding out beats for them at the outset and we’d screw around with chords until something stuck. E.R. laid down some simple, great guitar licks and sound effects and Nick really held down the bass. For the most part, Ben took the lead in getting the song arrangements started and for two of three switched to keyboard. I was informed by Ben that at some point that morning, I was selected to be the frontman so I spent all day doing my best to work on lyrics and some melodies. Probably the worst sets of lyrics I’ve ever penned since I was 17; at one point I even dug through a certain local zine for word fragments, but this, not unlike reading this particular publication for entertainment purposes, proved to be frustrating and futile.
Still, I was comforted by the fact that what I wrote was at least more cogent than anything Gavin Rossdale could word-salad together in two lifetimes.
At around 2pm or so we broke for lunch and ventured to the All Star Sandwich Bar (toxicology report – Matt: Atomic Meatloaf Meltdown with Inner Beauty Hot Sauce on the side; Ben: Saturday’s special, Grilled Patty Melt; Nick: Holy Moley Burger; E.R.: B.L.T.; Me: cheeseburger). It was a good opportunity to step away from the songs and decompress for a bit. We nerded out over Watchmen the comic vs. the movie; in particular, E.R. and I discussed Spider-Man 3 and what a goddamn shitshow that thing was.
The subject of the cover song came up. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song was brought up a few times, and earlier there was an idea for a medley of theme songs of ABC’s TGIF sitcoms, but none of that stuck. Ben excitedly brought up Oasis. I would’ve loved this for purely selfish reasons, I know those songs better than Aloud songs, but not everyone was a fan. E.R. mentioned a version of the Foo Fighters’ Everlong that was essentially a mashup of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head that he’s only ever played in his bedroom and, much like when we settled on Battle Toadz, seemed like an excellent idea everyone could agree on. This was the first thing we worked on upon our return to the Jamspot (with E.R. on vocals, I finally got the opportunity to hop on that mandolin I brought) and was very pleased.
Things grew tense once we revisited the originals. Ben became incessantly vocal about his displeasure that we weren’t playing the same exact things we played earlier in the day; the rest of the band felt he was worrying unduly about minutiae that wasn’t affecting the song one way or the other. We were all very, very tired and there was heated back and forth about spending more time on the songs or moving on. After an hour of beating the tunes to death it became painfully evident that the window for songwriting was firmly shut and we sorely needed to take another break. We had thirty minutes before we had to return to the club and still required one last run through of everything. We weren’t taking notes, so everything was straight off our memories. I was still unhappily revising lyrics and fretting over melodies that I probably wouldn’t (and didn’t) remember anyway.
We were on third and ready to go. I was anxious and not without a sense of trepidation, as it was only the second time in the last ten years I’d be performing a show without my bandmate and erstwhile Awesome Chari-ette, Jen, to my immediate left. Ben had issues with getting his keyboard to work and this caused a major delay in getting started. It was odd, really, a recurring nightmare I still have to this day finally managed to manifest itself. A room full of people. The band was on stage. Everyone was waiting for something to happen. Thankfully, the sound guy figured out some kind of solution to the issue and the Battle Toadz were going. The actual performance was a blur for me, but I recall everyone performing admirably and there weren’t any screw-ups. We used a plastic Doric pillar that was lying around in E.R.’s van as a keyboard stand. I thought this was a nice touch. I didn’t remember half the lyrics and made most of them up on the spot, an activity in which I excel at sucking, but I doubt anyone could decipher the words anyway. I thought the Everlong cover went over well. It was my favorite moment of the set.
All said, it was the most fun I’ve ever had on National Sarcoidosis Awareness Day.
RIP Battle Toadz.