Somerville MA – On Friday, April 22nd, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, the nation’s longest running battle of the bands, crowned a new champion, Worshipper, before a packed house at ONCE Somerville. For live music fans in the Boston area, attending the Rumble, formerly the WBCN Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, but now organized by Anngelle Wood of WZLX’s Boston Emissions, is a yearly pilgrimage, and a celebration of everything great about live music.
For years, the Rumble called T.T. the Bears in Cambridge home, but the closing of the iconic music venue forced a search for a new home. ONCE Somerville fit the bill. “It’s absolutely magnificent, a really fresh start with this new venue,” says Wood.
This night’s finalists included: synth-pop band usLights, 90’s grunge-rockers Weakened Friends, eventual winners, hardcore metal act Worshipper, followed by headliner/returning Rumble veterans, ScissorFight. The diverse bill is something that attendees and organizer/MC Anngelle Wood appreciated. “All these bands are markedly different; there really is something for everyone here.”
For bands lucky enough to be chosen to play the Rumble, it’s the chance for exposure, and to be a part of Boston music history. Past participants have included Letters to Cleo, Til Tuesday, The Neighborhoods, The Lemonheads, Morphine, The Del Fuegos, The Stompers, and more. “The Rumble’s legacy speaks for itself. It is the longest running event of its kind in the country,” says Wood. But more importantly it’s the chance to connect with other musicians, music fans, and be a part of something special.
Gregg Kusumah-Atmadja, lead singer and vocalist for usLights agrees. “The best part of this is just to be here with all of these other great bands; it’s amazing to come here and meet everyone, and get our foot in the door in the Boston music scene.”
Annie Hoffman, bass player for Weakened Friends added, “Our favorite part of this was playing these shows, and meeting so many new people. It never even felt like a competition.”
John Brookhouse of Worshipper concurs, “It is one of the few times a year that really celebrates the local music scene.”
“They really support one another. People come to discover what’s new and hang out together in the same room. It is a huge social event for the city,” said Wood.
“It really doesn’t feel like a competition, because everyone is just so happy to be a part of it,” says Brookhouse.
The Rumble, long regarded as an indelible Boston music tradition, almost went away for good, if not for the determination of one person: Anngelle Wood. “It did go away. There was no Rumble in 2010. WBCN closed up shop in 2009, and Boston Emissions was making the transition to WZLX. I went to my bosses and asked to bring it back. They supported me and allowed me to run it. All of it.”
usLights, the three piece wildcard band, was the first band up for the night. Their lush synth-pop sound features layers of keyboards from Matt Nastri, beautifully harmonized vocals, strong backbeat by drummer Shawn Pelky, and impressive guitar work from Kusumah-Atmadja. The growing crowd of metal/hardcore fans waiting for ScissorFight and Worshipper were won over with an electronic wall of sound, which reminded many of Muse. God Save the Queen, off the band’s current EP, was a crowd favorite. “This is only our fifth show, and three of those were here in the Rumble,” a jubilant Kusumah-Atmadja explained after his set.
Next up were the fun, three piece, grunge-rockers: Weakened Friends. This high energy band sounds like Nirvana, fronted by Alanis Morrisette, on speed. And that’s a good thing. Lead by talented guitarist/singer Sonia Sturino, the band ripped through a tight set of 90’s influenced rock, which left the audience breathless. “We love everything 90’s, we even cut our latest release Gloomy Tunes on 2 inch tape, and it’s only available on cassette,” a laughing Annie Hoffman shared after her set. Hoffman is a whirlwind of energy on bass and backing vocals, in perpetual motion from the opening cords to the final notes. Drummer Cam Jones kept this locomotive on the tracks with a pounding backbeat of solid rhythm and timely fills.
But the night belonged to metal/hardcore band Worshipper, who despite being down guitarist Alejandro Necochea, off touring Europe, brought an epic onslaught of metal many in the crowd were thirsty for. Members: John Brookhouse, vocals & guitars; Dave Jarvis, drums; Bob Maloney, bass & vocals; and last minute replacement Craig Small, guitars, brought their A-game, delivering a tight set of powerful melodic metal. The band lists a who’s who of classic metal as influences: “Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, UFO, and old Scorpians,” says Brookhouse. Worshipper even pulled out two covers this year. “We put our own spin on “Julia Dream” by Pink Floyd, and “Easy Livin” by Uriah Heep… It let’s us breathe a little as our own material can be a little complex.” Brookhouse added, “This was a kind of a unique experience, because Alejandro got a last minute opportunity to tour Europe… We really weren’t expecting to win, and we just sort of waited to see how it played out.” For Worshipper and their fans, things couldn’t have worked out any better. They are the 2016 Rock ‘n Roll Rumble Champions.
So what’s next for these Rumble finalists? usLights hopes to build on the momentum they have gained from the experience, and record some new material. Gregg says of the writing process, “We get in the room together, and it will build out of pure emotion; often Matt will come up with a cool keyboard sound, and we will build from there. We each add our own piece.”
Hoffman says of Weakened Friends, “We will tour all next month, and then record a new album in July.”
As for the champs, Brookhouse hinted of an album that is completely finished. “I’ll say it is coming out in late summer, details will be announced soon, but we are very excited about it.”
Rumble veterans, Scissor Fight, finished, the night with a powerful set of metal, much to the delight of hard music fans at the Rumble. This reformed version of the early 2000’s New Hampshire band appears ready to do big things.
As Rumble champ John Brookhouse put it, “everybody has a little metal in them; we just try to get people to remember that.”
While many bemoan this era of glorified karaoke with The Voice, or the loss of a vibrant live music scene, there will always be a genuine, untainted, live Rumble in Boston. That is, as long as Anngelle Wood has anything to say about it. “I have no interest in stacking it with sponsorships. I’m not interested in the Cool Ranch Doritos Rumble…the Rumble has proven to be a time of year and a place that energizes the music scene. I will continue to work to do that.”
For more on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, visit www.rockandrollrumble.com
Anngelle Wood hosts Boston Emissions each Sunday night at 10:00PM on 100.7 WZLX in Boston or at www.WZLX.com.