Band of Pitt students to open for Ke$ha

By Andrew Shull

Legs Like Tree Trunks won a battle royale of Pitt musical talent last night, giving it the… Legs Like Tree Trunks won a battle royale of Pitt musical talent last night, giving it the opportunity to open up for pop star Ke$ha, who will bring her brand of booze-fueled party-pop to this year’s Bigelow Bash.

Legs Like Tree Trunks competed against four other Pitt bands that, according to the rules of the event, had to have at least half of their members be Pitt students. The event was held in the Assembly Room of the William Pitt Union.

“We’re trying to make people have fun and dance like Ke$ha, we just get there a different way,” said Pitt student Matt Holden, guitarist and singer for the winning band.

Holden described Legs Like Tree Trunks’ sound as “math-folk-pop-rock.” His band mate, Dave Cerminara clarified by saying the sound was “pop music with tapping and odd time signatures.”

“As soon as they started playing, I said they were going to win,” said Jeremy Geddis, who isn’t a Pitt student, but saw all of last night’s acts.

One student, Vinny Mattiola, agreed. He said Legs Like Tree Trunks was a talented group, with each member complementing each other well. Although he said he isn’t sure how well the band’s style will match with Ke$ha, he did say he would go see them in concert.

Jillian Reilly, the special events director for the Pitt Program Council, said Ke$ha plans to bring her own opener, Beardo, with her on April 10, but Legs Like Tree Trunks will go on before him.

One of the grading criteria for the competition would be how well the band would blend with Ke$ha, a standard that was met with laughter when Reilly announced it to the bands and the audience.

Capax Infinity, White Like Fire, Havoc Theory and Burning Beacon were the other contenders, but none likened their style to that of the pop star’s.

“Everybody I’ve seen here has electric guitars, so that’s an automatic ‘no Ke$ha,’” said a Capax Infinity member who asked to be identified as “Steamboat.”

“Truth,” concurred his band mate, Pitt student Chris Kulakowski.

Steamboat and Kulakowski settled on “folk rock” to define their band’s sound.

The other bands also denied sounding like Ke$ha.

Blake Clawson, guitarist for White Like Fire, said the band, the runners-up last night, sound like “Chuck Berry meets hip-hop,” and that it was influenced by Kanye West.

Greg Nicosia of Havoc Theory said the band plays ’80s thrash metal.

“We try to be everything that was great and heavy about the ’80s,” he said.

Whereas these bands have established their own individual style, Burning Beacon’s sound is still definitely in the works. Last night was its first show because members had only been playing together three days.

“I had a group of people lined up, but I got a bunch of e-mails at three in the morning on Sunday saying that they couldn’t play,” band member Dan Radin said.

The only remaining member of his previous group left standing was Corey Wachala, and they were able to add two more members, Courtney Oliveira and Alec Gleb shortly thereafter.

“As a group, we just clicked right away,” Wachala said.

Deane Root, a music professor at Pitt and an expert on popular music, said competitions like these have been going on for well over a century. He said that there were competitions as early as the 1890s, when a number of bands would play the same song, with the audience voting for its favorite.

Root said this tradition continued into the jazz era. In the ’30s and ’40s, jazz musicians would enter into what were called “cutting contests,” where either bands or individual soloists were pitted against each other.

The Pitt Program Council used last night’s format to select the opening act for last year’s Bigelow Bash performer, Jack’s Mannequin. Last year’s Battle of the Bands winner was Sleepy V.

Tonight’s winner, Legs Like Tree Trunks, already has plans for a six-song EP in the works, which Cerminara said he thought it would release for free.

Holden said that he plans to use April’s concert as a springboard to get Pitt excited about its local talent.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a lot of Pitt kids interested in Pitt music,” he said. He also said he would reach out to other of last night’s performers to try to play with them soon.