Taffee Machine, Teen Power, Special Friends win Battle of the Underage Underground

Categories: Local Music
Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Battle of the Underage Underground winners Taffee Machine
Radio K held their 10th annual Battle of the Underage Underground competition last night in the Entry, and I had the pleasure of judging alongside the fabulous Mark Mallman, freelance photographer and Cake in 15 blogger Stacy Schwartz, and members of the station's staff. A total of seven bands performed, and our task was to determine the best three acts of the night.

The decision for first place was unanimous: Taffee Machine, a schizophrenic and totally bizarre three-piece from Mankato, had by far the most creativity (yes, that is a cardboard cutout of Zac Efron in the background). The lead singer was all over the map, standing on his tip-toes or crouch menacingly as he sang and growled, while his two bandmates, dressed in khaki boyscout uniforms and American flag bandanas, assumed exaggerated stances, kicked their legs, hung on the rafters, and otherwise acted like total badasses whilst wailing away.

"That bass player is rad," Mallman said, as he alternated between pointing dramatically into the audience and slapping the shit out of his bass guitar.

Taffee Machine's music was mostly pre-recorded, which the lead singer cued up between songs on a tiny mp3 player, and swung wildly between dance-pop, hardcore screamo, and pop-punk, often within the same song, culminating with a half-growled, half-crooned cover of "Who Let the Dogs Out." Wow. What?

Photo by Stacy Schwartz
Runners-up Teen Power had the honor of being the first ever hip-hop submission in the history of Radio K's contest, and their energy was incredible. Most of the action centered around emcee Lady Ice, who bandied back and forth between rapping casually and playfully with her two hype men and taking center stage to spit at a ferocious pace. Teen Power were easily the most confident act of the night, and at such a young age Lady Ice is already a promising talent in the St. Paul hip-hop scene.

Photo by Stacy Schwartz
Third place band Special Friends is a four-piece from the Perpich Center for the Arts, and they played an orchestral style of mellow folk-rock akin to Belle and Sebastian. Some songs had better composition than others, but during their finer moments they ratcheted up from a somber folkie dirge to a clattering, screeching climax, accentuated by a young woman who coaxed amazingly eerie noises out of her cello.

Other performers included Wolf Mountain (sample lyric: "We are Wolf Mountain, yes we are. That's the name of our band."), Southern rockers Sons of St. Francis, girl-pop trio Les Chouschous, and singer-songwriter Jeremy Warden.

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