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Boston’s annual Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble has been going strong since 1979, but this year shook things up. The 2015 edition saw TT The Bear’s Place open its doors for eight nights to host 24 competing bands once again, letting the room flood with every facet of rock possible, from experimental to folk. Amidst all this, one thing became clear: The youth are ready to be taken seriously. On Friday night last week, one of the bands fighting to overcome the kids finally wound up standing tall as the victor. All rise for local rock trio Zip-Tie Handcuffs.
Zip-Tie Handcuffs are exactly who should come to mind when you think of a rock contest. They throw down punk rock riffs in the same vein as Diarrhea Planet, minus the jukebox range of fake intros, all held together by drummer Max Levy’s ridiculously tight, fierce, deafening style. It’s hard to believe a sound that loud comes from a mere three people. Bassist Ian Grinold and guitarist Matt Ford were standing on invisible lava the night they won, shifting their feet and darting about the stage in a frenzy. Veins sprung from their necks as they sang, the two spitting out words with the same goofy spirit of the Beastie Boys, lightening the mood even further by throwing their instruments across the stage to one another to swap parts.
Age became apparent when they were almost dethroned by Americana quartet Nemes. Fiddler Dave Anthony and his built-for-Broadway voice seemed to have no end, encouraging the band to uphold their unrelenting energy. Whipping out a cover from The Lion King was bold, but child’s play is rather fitting for adults, too, even during the seriousness of finals. Eternals and Soft Pyramids brought poppy shoegaze to our attention as well, showing some serious stripes that speak beyond their respective ages, as did Raw Blow’s tough post-hardcore riffage. In a city packed with colleges, it should be obvious that the students are studying up, but the Rumble proved many have also been taking notes from local higher-ups outside the classroom.
So as Zip-Tie Handcuffs accepted the winners’ crown (decorated with feathers and antlers, natch) from ’90s local giants The Gravel Pit and WZLX Boston Emissions host Anngelle Wood closed the night with parting words, we couldn’t help but think—what’s next? Next year may see the college kids rise even higher, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until then, rock fanatics.