DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK…
When the Spin Doctors narrowly lost in the final round of iPod Battle 2, I was of the mindset that we wouldn’t compete in the next one. We had our moment in the spotlight and came up a bit short, so it would only be fair to step aside and let some other contestants have their shot at glory. But that night the defending champs, the Game Boyz, and organizer DJ Double A urged us to return. So when the invitation came out a week ago for iPod Battle 3, we couldn’t pass up the chance to claim the victory that was snatched from our grasp in February.
Truth be told, Travis and I were infinitely more nervous this time. In February, we didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into so we really had no expectations. We wanted to do well, but we had no idea how our material would go over with the crowd, or how many of our friends would be interested in making it out to cheer us on. So when we almost won and had huge crowd support, it changed the ballgame completely. Now we had something to live up to.
In an iPod Battle, not unlike in election politics, what you say or do matters, but more often than not it all comes down to getting out the vote. Using my blog, YouTube and (most of all) Facebook, Travis and I had laid a viral groundwork to get the word out. You may think that this would make us more confident, knowing that dozens and dozens of our friends were signed up as “Attending.” You would be wrong – that’s merely dozens and dozens more people that we had to impress. As we spent several hours preparing our playlist and editing our songs down to a minute, this intense pressure was pounding in our heads; anything less than victory this time would be a crushing disappointment.
(The photos for this recap were taken by a wonderful team of photographers in attendance last night: Lauren Dalrymple, Barbara Nussey, Krista Olmstead and Adam Barrett.)
ROUND ONE – PLAYDOWNS
Opponent: More Damage?? (I can’t remember the name, nor can I completely make it out from Krista’s YouTube video of the first cheer-off, but that’s what it sounds like)
Playlist: LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”; Talking Heads – “Burning Down the House”; Hot Hot Heat – “Bandages”; The Rapture – “House of Jealous Lovers”; Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar on Me”
There were a few things about iPod Battle 3 that made it different than our previous experience. For one thing, apparently the “no mashups” rule has been eliminated, but since Travis and I didn’t know about it ahead of time we really didn’t have a chance to put it to use. Secondly, there was a different guy running the mixer (Double A’s partner in the Famous Players) and he was much stricter on the 1-minute rule than MC was when he did the job last time. And the third thing is that, other than the Doctors, everyone else was a newcomer to the Battle. That’s right – the two-time defending champs the Game Boyz were not in the house.
Unlike last time, where we drew the first match of the night, this time the Spin Doctors were to go last in the first round. However, two things happened that changed the scenario: one of the teams was a little shaky on the idea of going first (since they had never even seen how a battle works before) so Double A asked if we would be willing to go first. Given that we knew we had a good crowd in the house at this point, we gladly said yes. Then, Double A called us back to the stage and told us that we’d be facing a different opponent than we originally drew, because one team (which consisted only of one guy) had to leave early. Simply put – we were getting a free ride to the second round.
That said, the guy we faced off against was pretty great. I’m not sure if it was because he knew he wasn’t going to get another round, or maybe it was just his taste in music, but this guy played some ballsy stuff. Travis and I are about the biggest Radiohead fans around, but we would never even think of opening a Battle set with “Idioteque” like he did. There was some Iron Maiden in there too, I think, and lots of other stuff that wasn’t populist at all – he was playing what he wanted to play rather than playing what the crowd might have wanted to hear. Good Battle strategy? Probably not. Admirable and awesome? Absolutely.
As for our end of things, Travis and I had picked “Mama Said Knock You Out” as our first song two months ago – how could we not use LL Cool J’s throwdown as our comeback song? The rest of the set stuck pretty close to the strategies that made our first round our best round last time. We continued our tradition of including a doctor-themed gimmick song, this time using Hot Hot Heat’s “Bandages” (complete with bandage props) in the place of “I Want a New Drug.” We included some stuff for the cool kids – Talking Heads – and the dance kids – The Rapture – before concluding with another 1980s pop-metal guilty pleasure, the one-armed wonder of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
Krista captured the cheer-off on video, so you can check it out here. Suffice to say, another round of Battle was in order for the Doctors.
ROUND TWO – SEMI-FINALS
Opponent: Sister Curly Fry
Playlist: Scissor Sisters – “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’”; Green Day – “When I Come Around”; Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”
You know, it’s funny – Travis and I were featured in a Daily News article about the Battle on Thursday, giving our ‘iPod Battle picks.’ The problem is that we obviously couldn’t give the journalist songs that we ACTUALLY planned to use, so we chose songs that we each really love but that we were okay with eliminating from our potential playlist. And yet, no less than four of the eleven songs we played last night are from the same artists as ones that were in the Daily News – anyone who read that article ahead of time would have had a great window into what we actually ended up breaking out at the Battle.
“I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” is one of those four (Travis had “Filthy/Gorgeous” on his picks list) and worked great for a number of reasons: it’s by a band that has significant indie cred but was also a pretty mainstream hit, plus it sounds retro even though it’s current. The rest of our second set (which, as with last time, was cut down to three songs per team) continued a theme that worked very well for us last time with “Lump” – mid-90s throwbacks. So after an opening set that drew heavily on the 80s, we played to the teenage years of our key demographic with Dookie classic “When I Come Around” (also a welcome change of pace from the more upbeat stuff people were playing) and the intensity of “Sabotage.” Travis gets credit for suggesting both of these songs, and both went over with massive success.
Our opponents, the lovely ladies of Sister Curly Fry, had won over the crowd with their theatrics, including countless props (and they had way more impressive-looking dollar bills than the Monopoly money we used last time). They were easily one of the most fun teams to watch all night, with material they used against us catering to R&B/hip hop (my favourite was the Jellestone’s “Money Part 1”). However, they were no match for our crowd’s massive Phil-Spector-esque Wall of Sound. Once again, the Spin Doctors had made it to the final round – good thing, too, because we had one hell of a trick up our sleeves.
ROUND THREE – FINALS
Opponent: Robot Cock Rock
Playlist: LCD Soundsystem – “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”; Duran Duran – “Hungry Like the Wolf”; Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Freebird”
When Travis and I were debriefing what worked and didn’t work about our first Battle, we shared the sentiment that we dropped the ball in the finals. Not only did “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” flop, but we didn’t have a killer final track. We both love “Mr. Brightside,” but it’s not the nail-in-the-coffin, thanks-for-coming-out, deal-sealing masterpiece that we needed to push us over the top last time. We were not going to make the same mistake again.
I was a bit surprised that Robot Cock Rock made it to the finals, actually – not that they were bad or anything, but their semi-final opponents It’s Dartmouth seemed to have more crowd support and were arguably better performers on stage. But RCR had a strongly concentrated group of supporters up near the front of the stage, and their support and massive volume had pushed them through the first two rounds. Just looking out over the crowd, though, I figured that we had the numbers to pull out a win this time, especially with what we had lined up.
Now don’t get me wrong – the LCD Soundsystem and Duran Duran tracks were important parts of this set, the former catering to the indie/dance crowd and the latter to the mainstream/retro crowd. But really, this set was all about our final song. A week ago, Travis and I picked our final song for the final round, realizing that we could only actually use it if we made it all the way – it’s so massive that nothing else could ever possibly follow it. We told everyone who was coming that we had the greatest song of all time lined up for the very end, using such teases as incentive for our audience to get us to the finals. So as we came to the last song, Travis and I paused for a second to hold up two computer-printout signs to the crowd:
As impressive a feat as our one-minute version of “Paradise City,” maybe more so, the edited version of “Freebird” is as cut-the-crap as it gets: four lines of the verse before giving the crowd a good 30 seconds of rawking out to the most awesomely ridiculously indulgent guitar solo of all time. As gigantic as we intended, as huge as it deserved to be, the crowd turned into a sea of fists and devil horns, banging their heads to every southern beat. Robot Cock Rock followed it with “Love is a Battlefield,” which may have been a big crowd pleaser under different circumstances – but really, it wouldn’t have mattered what they played for their last song. Nothing else can come close to the audacity that is “Freebird.”
So one last cheer-off was all that stood between the Spin Doctors and the eternal glory that we were denied last time. Our crowd’s deafening cheer was first, registering 119 on the decibel meter – very impressive. Then came the cheering for Robot Cock Rock, and in a mere 10 seconds I learned why they had made it as far as they did: we might have had more people in the crowd, but dammit, their people could REALLY yell. My heart skipped a beat as I realized that we were in serious danger of losing the title once again. The MC turns to Double A with a look of surprise on his face, and I fear the worst…
…119. It was an exact tie.
Travis and I weren’t sure what was going to happen next, and thought for a few seconds that we’d have to come up with another song to decide things. But no, instead we went to a second round of cheering, this time with everyone in the audience knowing full well the stakes at hand. Robot Cock Rock’s crowd, having pretty much exhausted their volume the first time, ended up with about the same rating on the meter. The Spin Doctors’ loyal fans, realizing that this was do-or-die, stepped up to the table big time.
123. The volume of victory. The Spin Doctors had done it – we had won iPod Battle 3.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
I said this last time, but it deserves repeating: Travis and I are ridiculously impressed by and thankful for the support that the Spin Doctors have received. For some reason, our friends have decided that watching and cheering on two music geeks pretending to be doctors is a worthwhile endeavor. Hell, last night I ran into several old friends from high school and university, some of whom I haven’t seen in years, who decided that the Spin Doctors were worth their valuable time, money and volume. Without all of you good people in the crowd, none of this would be any fun. Our victory is your victory, so consider yourselves champions.
Out of all of the fans in attendance, I want to give a special shout-out to Robin Lorway as the “hero of the night.” It’s one thing to use every ounce of voice you have in support of the Spin Doctors – it’s another to take a punch to the face. Robin was collateral damage in one of the two fights that broke out at Tribeca last night, over what I can only presume to be arguments about whether the Spin Doctors were “awesome” or “super awesome.” She’s doing okay today, though, and the Spin Doctors send her our biggest well-wishes.
So what of the future of the Spin Doctors? With Travis looking to move on in PR, and nowhere really left to go but down after “Freebird,” it could be that Halifax has seen the last of its medically and musically inclined iPod Battle superduo. There’s a bit of unfinished business out there – we did not get to defeat the Game Boyz, after all – but if there was ever a note to go out on, standing victorious on that stage was about as high as it could ever be
The Spin Doctors. iPod Battle 3 champions.