CAMBRIDGE - Apparently, not even the advent of state-of-the-art interactive games like "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero" could stifle the not-so-humble hopes of software engineers dreaming of rock 'n' roll glory.
This hypothesis was tested and proven Tuesday night in a controlled environment - namely, the downstairs confines of the Middle East - and several conclusions could be gleaned from the experiment. One was that tech nerds ("nerds" being the self-description of choice among the frantically text-messaging audience) can sing and play their instruments as well as disgruntled bartenders or alienated suburban kids. The other observation was that they value improbable stage attire (fingerless gloves, silly winter caps matched with sunglasses indoors). The third was that they may not want to quit their day jobs just yet.
The idea was diabolically simple and the stakes temptingly high: Xconomy, a six-month-old Cambridge-based website publication that covers cutting-edge business and technology, would host a "Battle of the Tech Bands" comprised of groups with at least one member working for a company in the industry it covers.
The prizes? More than $1,000 worth of studio time at Boston's Bristol Recording Studios and more than $1,000 worth of music retail service from the Framingham-based Nimbit company. Of course, there would also be networking and hook-up opportunities galore. Finally, audience text-message voting (the progress of which was flashed on a flat screen near the stage), plus a vote by a secret cabal of Xconomy editors and celebrity judges, would determine the winners.
Technology is fun, so the screen was also used to flash other text-message witticisms such as the eternally clever "Play Freebird!" (seen while the hirsute One Hand Free, representing
The engaging rockabilly combo Knuckledusters, representing BioProcessors Corp and Veritas Medicine, employed Stray Cats swing, while the nine-piece Souled Out SuperBand, representing Bose, ably blasted through a medley of Motown covers and Stax/Volt wedding warhorses.
All of which pointed up the fact that none of the "tech bands" contestants really had anything to do with either the music or tools of cutting-edge techno or innovative electronics - no Girl Talk-y laptop mash-ups, no geeky samplers. Case in point: The preening Maroon 5-meets-3 Doors Down outfit McAlister Drive, representing Linedata Services won the judges' award for "Most Innovative Band," after performing Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," a song that was a mere 50 years old.
Perhaps the night's most salient point was the text message while Sad Marvin (representing Smiths Medical) strove for No Doubt's arena-rock heights: "Where's the punk rock?"