TDU’s stage was cluttered with instruments and surrounded by eager students on March 14th at 7pm. Along with the crowd, Campus Cookies and other snacks, a panel of three judges, and a cut-out of a bear marking a merchandise table sat nearby. Two bands and an acoustic solo act waited patiently for their turn to impress the crowd. Only the best could win the chance to open for Madipalooza during this night of University Program Board’s Rumble Down Under. Each band’s fate was decided by the judges, including a communications professor, a previous Spotlight Sounds director, and last year’s Rumble Down Under winner, as well as a majority vote by the student audience.
The first band to take the leap was a seven-piece hip-hop fusion band called Gryzzle. All are 19 and 20-years old and, except for the drummer, JMU music majors. They started playing together last April, and since then have made a ten-track album with Harrisonburg’s Blue Sprocket Sound and played in house shows as well as bars and breweries. They all plan to play music for a living with the hopes that Gryzzle may someday be a full-time gig.
“We’re trying to grow Gryzzle’s audience at JMU,” said Mānoa Bell, bassist and sophomore music industry major.
Their performance was unique and entranced the audience immediately. Students lit up with excitement when the full horn section began with a classic jazzy tune. There was another pleasant surprise when the lead started rapping to up-beat and uplifting lyrics.
“They had a really high energy,” said Elise Roberson, a junior communication studies major. “I got really excited watching them.”
Excited cheers followed every song, but while the music was playing, everyone on and off-stage wore wide smiles and genuinely enjoyed the performance. Near the end, all but the drummer suddenly took out hand instruments and played with perfect synchrony.
The next band was Venus Milo, a newly-formed indie-rock band. The four current members have been together since January, but they continue to play songs written during previous iterations of the band.
“We started folk, but when Nick joined, we naturally got more electric with [the addition of] the drummer,” said Brendan Callan, a senior English major.
Since January, the four of them have already toured, have demos and an EP, and are continuing to play other shows. Two of the members, however, are moving to Richmond this May, but the band hopes to keep playing occasionally.
As they played, a scribbled-on cut-out of the drummer’s face sat at the front of the stage. They smiled all the while playing and made jokes in-between songs, but kept a relaxed and almost sad tone throughout their performance.
The last audition was sophomore computer science major Nic Maoury, or Nic. as his stage name. He ￼has been teaching himself guitar since he was seven years old and practicing his singing for the past two years. When he was fifteen, he was in a heavy metal band, but now primarily plays soft indie/folk music.
“I figured I needed something more relaxing,” Maoury said.
He has been performing as a solo act for about a year, has an EP and a music video, and is recording another EP this summer with Blue Sprocket Sounds. He doesn’t mind if playing just turns into a hobby, but he would ideally like to do music for a living.
During Rumble Down Under, Maoury played soft and sweet songs, including several originals and covers. They were all about love, including unrequited love, and heartbreak. He continuously thanked the cheers from the audience and even met some of them after.
The crowd seemed to love the overall energy of the musicians and had fun when they were having fun on-stage. Everyone put up a good fight during this friendly rumble, but in the end, the winner was the unique and awe-inspiring band Gryzzle. For those who missed this musical night, you have another chance to see these seven stars perform at Madipalooza on April 14th.