by Jeff Niesel
The fifth round of the 17th Annual High School Rock Off, which took place yesterday afternoon at House of Blues featured another 11 bands competing for a spot at the upcoming Final Exam. With the exception of a solo singer-songwriter, the bands loosely fell into the pop-punk and pop-rock category.
The Hudson-based band Hit the Ground Running started the four-and-a-half show off with an engaging set of pop rock material that included a mix of originals and covers. Sounding a bit like the Goo Goo Dolls, they struck a good balance between pop and rock and never sounded too light or too heavy. The pop-punk band Ohio Caught Fire followed with a pop-punk set that concluded with a cover of Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi.” One Day November also had a pop-punk approach that would have sounded right at home on a Warped Tour side stage.
Explaining that they had played together for 7 years now, Copley’s Two of a Kind opted for a grunge-y sound that could have used a few more pop hooks. Their enthusiasm, however, was undeniable. Playing a solo set, singer-guitarist Maddy Grimm turned up the electric guitar so much that it nearly overwhelmed her vocals. Still, she played a mix of originals and covers and seemed comfortable on stage, joking that she would have introduced her band if she had one. She ended her set with a cover of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “ I Just Want You to Know Who I Am.”
Shaker Heights’ High School’s Techn!color played a bit of everything — pop, rock and R&B — as it delivered a very soulful rendition of Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Velocity sounded like a prog rock band from the ’70s and it played a few covers, including a spot-on rendition of Rush’s “Spirit of the Radio.” Fronted by a female singer with a powerhouse voice, Funky McMunky played a hard rock set that occasionally bordered on metal, and Howland High’s the Cardboard Cutouts benefited from the fact that their fans were quite vocal in their support of the alt-rock group that played a set of original tune that concluded with Weezer’s “The Sweater Song.” Boycott the Girls Room!, a group featuring members from three different high schools, played a set of death metal that included their take on the Ke$ha tune “Die Young. The group even inspired a small mosh pit. Boardman’s Big Ginge and the Nobodies played a vigorous punk rock set of original music that also inspired some mosh pit action.
In no particular order, three winners —Techn!color, Velocity and Funky McMunky — were announced at the concert’s end and all posed for a photo. They’ll compete again in the “Final Exam,” which takes place on Feb. 9 at House of Blues. You can watch the announcement of the winners here.