It’s a Friday afternoon at a jarringly empty T.T. The Bear’s, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble kicks off at the end of the weekend. Veteran Rumble coordinator Anngelle Wood goes through a mental list of things that must be done by Sunday, the first night of the preliminary rounds (the fantastic New Highway Hymnal went on to win). Kevin Patey, the gruff-voiced manager of T.T.’s, is helping Wood figure out what remains to be done; going through guest lists, checking projectors, taking beer deliveries, and reminiscing about Rumbles past. Patey goes to the back of the club and brings out a giant stack of Rumble posters, glossy and white and featuring the entire Rumble lineup. Wood marvels at them for a while.
Now in its 34th year, the Rumble (hosted by WZLX 100.7) has become something of a Boston institution, although Wood—for whom this will be her fourth—hesitates to call it a battle of the bands:
“It’s more of a music festival in that it celebrates the music scene. Battle of the bands sounds cheesy to people, including me.”
Still, she admits, there are similarities in form. “It is a competition, because there is a winner. But everyone gets paid. It’s fun. Really, really fun.”
In Boston, you’d be hard-pressed to find a musician without a connection to the Rumble. Patey himself is a Rumble alum, and he looks back on the experience fondly despite not having won the overall competition.
“It’s a project,” says Wood. “It starts in, like, November. I make lists all year long of all the contenders. That starts at about 80 acts.”
From there, she starts to narrow it down by vetting bands, and trying to catch as many of them as possible live. “I’d like to see all 80 of them beforehand, but that’s not always feasible. But it’s just to see their presence in a live show.” After that, bands are responsible for handing their music in and a calendar and lineups are created, judges are vetted and assigned to days on which they don’t have conflicts of interest. “It’s a lot of wrangling,” says Wood. “That’s my word for it. Wrangling.”
Despite the initial difficulties, it’s hard not to notice how many genres are represented on any given night, especially during the prelim rounds.
One of the greatest benefits of the Rumble is its ability to get bands onstage that would never normally play together.
When I ask Wood how she curates it, she says matter-of-factly, “I pick ‘em out of a hat.”
She continues, “Look, you’re going to find something you like. I’ve seen people absolutely slay the crowd, just because they’d never expect it from, say, a stoner-rock band.”
So all Rumble first-timers out there? Heed Miss Wood’s advice for you:
“Believe it. Believe that it’s the love-fest that everyone talks about. Believe the hype.”
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