Sure, the five bands of the College Market Tour's were unsigned and not famous, but they deserved more than the 50 people that attended.
Blame the promoters, who thought a few posters on vending machines would suffice. The Blue and White game was the same night, and the CAA could have had a little more foresight.
As for the show itself, it was an above-average battle of the bands. The bands were uneven and blandly unoriginal at times but also highly polished and practiced. Regardless of the material, each exuded confidence -- a tough task under the spirit-breaking conditions.
First act Jennifer Marks is certainly cast from the woman-playing-acoustic guitar mold, but she does put a welcome sarcastic spin on it. She sounds like a less pretentious Jewel covering Liz Phair, and her stories are genuinely funny. But her road is well trodden, and her onstage presence very slight.
At the opposite end of the presence scale was Yo, Flaco!, a rap-funk band with eight members. The members' attitude is more about posturing, and their Parliament-meets-Tito Puente sound is infectious, if terribly repetitive. If the band doesn't win, Yo, Flaco! will still have a place in any fraternity guy's stereo.
The soulful quartet Live Honey came next, fronted by throaty Shelly Bhushan. She croons like Fiona Apple, but the music doesn't match. The sometimes funky, sometimes Phish-y sound of Bhushan's band was going through the motions -- great skill but little energy.
The four punchy 30-somethings of Fade were the show's weakest act. They have the strong, slick sound of Top 40 power-ballad rock, plaintive and emotive. They have good songs and lead singer Nilesh Makwana has a great voice, but Fade is greatly marred by its heavy lead guitar. It's too Slash, too Eddie Van Halen for Fade's winsome, formulaic soft rock.
If corduroy pants could sing, Carbon-Leaf is what they'd sound like. It has a folky, jam band sound, heavily Celtic, youthful and easy. The band is bright and earthy granola rock, and they instantly feel more original than other groups. They carry a crowd in a way the others couldn't, and, if Thursday was any indicator, Carbon-Leaf will win the competition.
Ultimately, it's unclear what the College Music Tour's goal might be. If it was meant to give the five bands some more experience, most didn't need it -- unless that experience was playing to an empty house. In which case the stop at Memorial Hall more then served.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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