Talented teens are the stars in local Battle of the Bands showcasing Bergen County high school students
- Category: Featured Spotlight
- Published on Monday, 10 June 2013 09:31
- Written by Fort Lee Online
FORT LEE, NJ - The term "cliffhanger" originated in the early days of the motion picture industry in Fort Lee, a reference to actors literally hanging over the edge of the Palisades in the silent films of that era. A century later, the term "cliffhanger" applied as well to Friday night's "Battle of the High School Bands", the annual event run by the Fort Lee Film Commission, with only a single judging point separating the top two teen bands for the judges' Grand Prize award.
The judges' ultimate choice was The Cleopatra Club, a pop-rock band consisting of virtuosi teen musicians from North Haledon and Garfield, which edged past Radio Activity, a trio of freshmen rockers from Dumont, New Milford and Rochelle Park. The Cleopatra Club was awarded the $500 Grand Prize, along with an invitation to perform at next year's Fort Lee Arts and Music Festival - an offer traditionally made to each year's Grand Prize winner.
"The Fort Lee Film Commission's Battle of the Bands gets bigger and better each year", said Fort Lee Film Commission Executive Director Tom Meyers. "We established this annual contest in 2005 and each year the bands and the music reach new heights. Our 2013 Battle of the Bands was the best yet, with all six bands competitive and fantastic."
That tradition by the Film Commission of showcasing local teen talent was continued with this year's two prize-winning bands.
Describing themselves as exclusively a covers band which "prides itself on taking recognizable songs and retooling them to fit their style", the members of The Cleopatra Club came together earlier this year and include vocalist Jessica Kenny, guitarist Matt Morgantini, drummer Stephen Saulpaugh, and bassist Shane Furst. Kenny, Saulpaugh, and Furst attend Paramus Catholic High School, while Morgantini attends Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale.
The band seeks to distinguish themselves as not "just another 'high school rock band'", which in their minds "usually conjures up imagery of loud, inexperienced musicians, causing a ruckus in a neighborhood garage". Rather, according to their recent press release, "The Cleopatra Club has a unique quality... It's something the band shrugs off and simply calls the 'us' factor."
While primarily they say they "are just having fun" as a band, they state that they nonetheless are "going to change the definition of youth entertainment in Northern New Jersey".
This is the second year in a row that singer Kenny has led her band to victory: last year, the band she then fronted, Doomsday Diaries, won the Grand Prize.
The Cleopatra Club's set consisted of covers of the songs "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper; "Lights" by Ellie Goulding; "Suit & Tie" by Justin Timberlake; and "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, a long-term repertoire staple for students of the School of Rock like Kenny, Morgantini and Furst.
For more information about The Cleopatra Club, including upcoming shows, the band can be found online at:
This year's competition was the first such entry for Radio Activity, a young "power pop" trio of students from Dumont High School (Matt DeMarco, vocals & guitar), New Milford High School (Polo Itona, bass & vocals), and Hackensack High School (Dylan Trawinski, drums & vocals). Although usually performing a mix of both original songs and covers, Radio Activity's set on Friday night consisted of the original "Sorry, Debbie", penned by the band's bassist Itona; "Everybody Talks" by Neon Trees; "Want U Back" by Cher Lloyd; and "American Idiot" by Green Day.
As a result of the difference of only a single point between these top two bands, the Film Commission decided to extend an invitation to Radio Activity to also perform at next year's Arts & Music Festival alongside The Cleopatra Club.
The other award presented in the contest was the Wendy's-sponsored "Audience Choice Award", where the crowd was given the opportunity to express its own preference for a winner. That award and its corresponding $250 prize went to Radio Activity, which thus ended the night but a single judging point away from sweeping the competition.
For more information about Radio Activity, the band can be found online at:
"We congratulate all of our bands and the winners, Best Band The Cleopatra Club and our Wendy's Audience Choice Award winning band Radio Activity", said Meyers. "We look forward to seeing both The Cleopatra Club and Radio Activity perform at the June 2014 Fort Lee Arts & Music Fest!"
The wonderful photos featured in the following photo gallery are courtesy of Donna Brennan and the Fort Lee Film Commission. Ms. Brennan is a professional photographer and visual journalist. Providing services throughout the tri-state area, she specializes in TV commercials, infomercials, corporate productions, industrials, legal video documentation, promos, podcasts, news, documentaries, video magazine shows, script writing, and voice-overs. You can contact Donna Brennan at 201-926-9831, or on the web at www.AllReelMedia.com.
Other bands that performed at this year's Battle of the High School Bands included:
With the June 7 contest being the band's third live show, Blind Mountain was formed in March and features students from Cliffside Park High School.
Genre: Described on their Facebook page as "Stoner Rock" & Psychedelic Rock, Blind Mountain focuses mainly on covering 60's/70's rock songs, but has plans to work on writing & recording original music this summer.
Originally formed in December 2011 and previously known as "Studio 51", Ninth Minute features musicians from Fort Lee High School, Dwight Morrow Academies in Englewood, and David E. Owens Middle School in New Milford. They have performed at such venues as The Crossroads in Garwood, NJ, Webster Hall in NYC, and the Canvas Clash in Boonton, NJ.
Genre: Alternative Rock
This having been their third live show, Round Trip is a new band formed in April by students from Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan. "This is our first time really playing on a big stage for this many people and it's quite exciting to say the least!"
Genre: Alternative Rock
This was the band's very first show: Vision is a brand-new band with members from Fort Lee High School, Bogota High School, and Ridgefield High School.
Past years' winners of the Fort Lee Battle of the High School Bands have included:
2008 - The Dirt Bags
2009 - The Pedal Pushers
2010 - Once We Were Kids
2011 - Starless
2012 - Doomsday Diaries (*then fronted by The Cleopatra Club's vocalist Kenny)