We Want the Phunk: Alpha Phunk Wins 2013 Battle of the Bands

Bobby Beresford on trumpet, Blake Bennet on guitar, and Vincent Loris on drums.

Jordan Wolff
Staff Writer

Photo by Ayeyi Aboagye

Music lovers got their fill of funk and other genres at the University of California, Santa Barbara Hub on Feb. 27 for this year’s Battle of the Bands, which was hosted by AS Program Board Presents. The night featured five diverse bands: Alpha Phunk, The Ole’s, Ellison Hall, Sloppy Job, and Andy Dick & The Dicks. The winner of the ultra-competitive battle was the incredibly jazzy and soulful group, Alpha Phunk. Their win secured them an opening slot at this year’s Extravaganza, which takes place every year in May. Representatives from The Daily Nexus, KCSB, and The Bottom Line made up the judging panel and picked Alpha Phunk as the winner.

Despite performing first and in front of a crowd that was still filing into the Hub, Alpha Phunk was able to pull off the massive victory. Their success was underscored by the brevity of their existence—the band has only been together for a little over two months, and the night marked just their third performance together as a group.

Fourth-year CCS literature major and KCSB Program Director Navid Ebrahimzadeh was one of the three judges for the battle.

“The three of us [Carly, Elysia, and I] used the following five criteria for judging: cohesion, energy, level of engagement, diversity, and overall quality,” he said. “All three of us agreed on Alpha Phunk…[they] had the most potential to grow and succeed as a band due to their strong stage presence and individual style.”

Alpha Phunk demonstrated their supreme skill in the form of insanely soulful vocals from singer Sofia Melo and the equally impressive and entertaining rhymes of emcee Larcy Hall. These vocal graces soared over an underlying current of  jazz, soul, and funk oozing from musicians Vincent Loris (drums), Bobby Beresford (trumpet), Blake Bennett (guitar), Miller Wrenn (bass), and Ben Pearse (keys). The strength of the band came from their fusion of styles and their ability to improvise at will with the crowd.

“I came in with a music major,” said Melo, a second-year political science major. “I used to sing soprano and I just didn’t like it. That’s why I really like the band. Were just really funky and you can just kind of sing whatever you want. It’s awesome. It’s always so fun.”

Even though Alpha Phunk won the battle, the other bands put up one hell of a fight. Reggae rock band The Ole’s were escorted on and off the stage with roaring chants of “Ole…Ole.” The band Ellison Hall captivated the audience with lead singer Gene Alder’s channeling of a combo of Jim Morrison’s antics and Jack White’s growling voice. Sloppy Job created the only substantial mosh pit of the night, and Andy Dick & The Dicks showcased a fresh display of uniqueness as demonstrated in their crazy throwback style, which was characterized by a cover of Tupac Shakur’s “Changes” and their incredibly gifted guitarist, Andy Lapostol, who resembled a sort of young 60s hippie/surfer form of Eric Clapton.

“All the other bands are super nice,” said Bennett, a fourth-year psychology major. “Last Saturday night we played Chillapalooza with four out of five of the bands tonight. All those bands are just really awesome guys, so it just made it that much nicer to be, like, hanging out with them and playing music with them.”

That being said, Alpha Phunk is stoked that they came out on top.

“Come see us at Extravaganza! We’re gonna put a sick set together,” Bennett said. “It’s going to be like tonight, times 10.”