At Battle of the Ad Bands, even punk rocker Julius Caesar got his 15 minutes

“This is the best gig we’ve ever played!” It’s also the first concert we’ve ever played!’

The Arctic Monkeys saw no need to include a long saxophone solo in “Do I Wanna Know?”, their 2013 slow-burning rocker with a killer chorus. Chances are no one has ever listened to this song and thought, “This could be improved with a lot no more sax”.

But that’s exactly what a bunch of dapper guys from media agency OMD decided to include in the opening song of their brief set on a drizzly Thursday night in Auckland. As The Pixels, they promised to provide as much variety as an op-shop record bin and they delivered, turning the ultra-grungy British guitar anthem into a yacht rock opus.

On a good thing, perhaps inspired by Kenny G, they then repeated the trick for an equally jazzy cover of MGMT’s “Kids.” “You are a sax delinquent,” said one of the three impressed judges after their set. Their mustachioed leader was smiling as if he had just committed a crime.

The Pixels fight their way through a set of saxed covers at Battle of the Ad Bands. Photo: Supplied

At the annual Battle of the Ad Bands, a sort of adult-only Smokefree Rockquest headlined by bands made up only of those working in the media or ad industries, the show’s ridiculously compelling motto from four o’clock in the night was “anything goes”.

They weren’t kidding. For the first time in three years, those who held their $50 tickets, or groups who had paid $500 free admission, arrived at 6 p.m. ready to party. From the free vodka shots and drink vouchers handed out at the door to the homemade signs and rowdy moshpits that formed in the front rows of Galatos throughout the night, everyone got what they came for. .

The nine acts playing back-to-back performances were often hilarious and exhilarating. Given 15 minutes to play the motley mix they liked, some chose sets full of songs that are sure to please the judges of the night, provided by Radio Hauraki, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Killers the heavy favorites.

Others mixed it up, taking wild swings that could have easily come off. From the local branch of Dentsu, Jille & the Meat Lovers started a fierce version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” then pivoted by mixing in the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Chelsea Parsons, who has the title “chief of success” in her day job at digital marketing company Hype & Dexter, ably rapped the lyrics to Missy Elliott’s “Get Your Freak On” before moving on to the part of From The Soul of Gorillaz ”Feel Bon Inc’.

Battle of the advertising tapes
Chelsea Parsons performs with Hype & The Dextones. Photo: Supplied

Perhaps the most diabolical performance of the night came from a group of misfits called AC/DDB. One looked like Ronald McDonald had joined Slipknot, while another looked like the Hamburglar if he grew his hair out and stole a guitar. The bassist had apparently spent three hours backstage dazzling his dome with rhinestones.

Led by a punk-rock Julius Caesar with tomatoes hanging from his groin, the six-piece delivered the Venga Boys song “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!” a punk-rock makeover, then nailed Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” receiving the most rowdy response of the night for their efforts.

Battle of the advertising tapes
AC/DDB performs at Battle of the Ad Bands. Photo: Supplied

The banter between the songs was also worth the applause. “I’m almost 50!” the Poster Boy singer shouted after tearing up “What’s My Age Again?” from Blink-182. “It’s the best concert we’ve ever played! It’s also the first gig we’ve ever played! shouted the overexcited guitarist from Jille & the Meat Lovers.

Sponsored by the wazoo, at times I felt like I was stuck in a chaotic episode of The Price is Right as the night’s over-eager stage host shouted a series of brand names – “Huffer!” “Prepare! “Coffee Supreme!” “Summit!” – and threw large gift packages of Whittaker chocolate into the crowd.

There, the atmosphere turned towards a student party in Remuera. Many were there for one thing and one thing only. “There’s another bar upstairs,” shouted a happy drunk, winking at me in the queue at the downstairs bar. “Time to get drunk!” shouted a singer after shoving her way through The Sugababes’ “Overload.”

But the soundtrack to all that mayhem was taken surprisingly seriously. Bands, some who have formed over the past few weeks, others who have played together and performed at BOTAB for much of its 13-year existence, had trained for the occasion far more than they probably wouldn’t want to admit it.

Only occasionally did the wheels feel like they were falling off. Inviting a transvestite on stage to perform during ‘Man! I feel like a woman’ felt out of touch, and that wasn’t the only time someone appeared dragging in the night. No one seemed to understand the irony of a room full of advertisers chanting “Fuck you / I won’t do what you tell me,” when it’s their exact job to get people to do exactly what they do. they tell them.

Fish Tacos
Fish Taco performs at Battle of the Ad Bands. (Photo: provided)

The industry isn’t known for lacking in self-confidence or having an overabundance of self-awareness, and you might read the night as a drunken celebration of the arrogance, ego and showboating that permeates the craft. . But you couldn’t fault the commitment of everyone involved determined to live out their rock star fantasies in 15-minute chunks.

I spent most of the night with my mouth hanging open, either shocked at what was happening or laughing at their increasingly brazen antics. It’s perhaps no surprise that the winning actor of the DayLit party (a quick admission: I work alongside most of the group, made up of members of The Spinoff and creative agency Daylight) l done by taking things down a notch or two.

Battle of the advertising tapes
DayLit winners perform at Battle of the Ad Bands. (Photo: provided)

Rather than performing in front of the crowd, their Polyphonic Spree-style takeover of the same stage, Dave Grohl, has already played on invited spectators inside their performance. Opening with a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” they seemed to play for each other as much as the audience. Their carefully constructed set, built in energy and speed, shifted from male vocalists to female vocalists for Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” then erupted with a finale of Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”

It was another wild swing on a night full of them, but their lack of costumes and humble winning celebrations played well against the over-the-top antics of most of the other featured acts. “I would pay to watch this set,” a judge said afterwards. Most of those present were too drunk to take anything on board, but there may be a lesson to be learned somewhere for the advertising industry.

About Joan J. Hernandez

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