Eleven teenage rock bands and solo performers stepped into the bright lights Saturday afternoon at the Maine Academy of Modern Music’s high school battle of the bands, also known as the MAMM Slam 2016.

The bands went head to head at Bayside Bowl in Portland for a chance at thousands of dollars’ worth of free studio time, up to $16,000 in scholarships at Maine College of Art for the winner, and $1,000 in cash.

Playing a range of genres, the high school performers, especially the heavy metal groups, easily drowned out the sounds of bowlers in the background as an appreciative audience sent up thunderous applause between acts.

“This stage may only be 18 inches high, but the amount of bravery to get up here is amazing,” said Aimsel Ponti, a content producer at MaineToday.com and emcee for the event.

The performers were there to be narrowed down to five finalists by a panel of musical and creative professionals. The judges selected Work in Progress, whose members go to Scarborough High School and Cape Elizabeth High School; Yard Sail, with members from Casco Bay High School in Portland, Thornton Academy in Saco and Cheverus High School in Portland; Liam Swift, a student at Casco Bay High School; Fading Dawn, with members from Camden Regional High School and Oceanside East High School in Rockland; and Psycho Brahe, a band from Windham High School.

A sixth band, The Rubber Band, from Windham High School, was chosen by an online poll.


All six will appear at the finals May 14 at the Portland House of Music & Events.

They were judged on their songwriting, performance, Web presence, marketing and other aspects of professional touring and recording musicianship. Most of the competitors set up kiosks hawking recordings, T-shirts and other souvenirs.

In its sixth year, the annual battle of the bands is organized by the academy, a nonprofit organization that teaches music to students across the state. More than 700 students have gone through the academy’s programs, said executive director Jeff Shaw.

Each group had 20 minutes in the spotlight on Saturday. The clock started the moment the performers’ feet hit the stage. Points were deducted for running over the 20 minutes. The music had to be original, except for one cover piece.

Luke Thatcher, 15, of Scarborough, with the group Septus, described its sound as hard rock with a blues influence. He said the band, which includes T.J. Hinkle, 17; Cole Anderson, 16; and Luke’s brother Jayson, 11, had been playing together for two years and was just a little bit nervous. Thatcher said they write their music together.

“Someone comes up with a riff,” said Luke.


Josh Caiazzo, 17, and his brother Justin, 15, also of Scarborough, said they didn’t have a name for their band and just winged it with Work in Progress, a five-member reggae pop rock band.

“We started as blues and branched out,” said Justin Caiazzo.

Their mother, Beth Caiazzo, who helped set up their display of souvenirs, said she enjoys hosting the band’s practice sessions in her garage.

“I just hang out in the kitchen. I love the way they sound,” she said.

David Young of Windham, who performed solo and with his rock group, The Rubber Band, took the plunge and opened the event singing a number of original folk songs, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica.

The crowd responded with hoots of encouragement and loud applause.

“I think I did all right,” Young said.


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