Eastern is hosting a battle of the bands this spring. Three local groups-Solace, Hundred Dollar Handshake and Inklosure- are competing for the opening spot at the Fabolous / One Republic show in April. What you may not know is that the bands are competing as you read this. Unlike the traditional battle of the bands setup, which sees the competing groups play live to win by garnering the best crowd and/or judge reaction, the Crocs Battle of the Bands comes in the form of an online poll.

This format is a mixed-bag for Eastern, but a bag that presents new and interesting opportunities for student activities. It is a step in the right direction as far as finding unusual programming for the student body.

Before we take a deeper look at that bag, The Eastern Progress wishes to mention that one of the editors has a brother in one of the bands. Some information on the voting process has come from sources inside the groups.

A traditional battle of the bands would give students the chance to get together and show some pride in their local colors. As much as we can appreciate the likes of Fabolous and One Republic, they are established artists who have less need for the support of Richmond, Ky., than the local groups. Even the losers of a traditional BOTB get exposure, and the crowd gets a variety of music for (presumably) a low ticket price.

The online poll format allows voters to listen to one single from each of the three groups, but not every band had access to top-notch recording equipment. There are clear gaps in sound quality, and some of the competing groups might suffer for it. Since the BOTB is being handled this way, students also lose out on the live experience a traditional battle provides-a live experience that would ensure a level playing field for the bands.

However, the online poll was not Eastern’s choice. Crocs Next Step Tour is hosting BOTBs all along the eastern United States-and they’re all being handled the way the tour officials mandated.

“The Tour is a package deal,” SAC Concert Chair Justin Hobbs said. The BOTB is being done the way Crocs Next Step does it, so this is not to say SAC, Student Life or Eastern has made a poor choice in handling the BOTB-the online poll format comes with the deal.

The voting process itself is somewhat suspect. Since anyone with an IP address can vote once a day, there is nothing to stop the bands from advertising on MySpace to garner “gimme” votes from people who may not even listen to the single. The possibility (and in fairness to the groups, the likelihood) of people going from computer to computer on Eastern’s campus and voting several times a day also clouds the issue of who really wins the BOTB.

Still, the overall effect of the BOTB is a positive one. Even if the method won’t provide the same experience a traditional one might, it remains a crystallizing event for Eastern Students. We can still show pride in our area by voting, and enjoying the winner’s performance along with Fabolous and One Republic.

Eastern students are nothing if not fickle about what gets them to congregate. Despite the wide array of activities and events on campus, turnout can be incredibly difficult to predict-especially when the event is something unusual. SAC had to deal with this last month when N*W*C* overfilled O’Donnell Auditorium.

Major sports will always draw by tradition. Lecture series will generally draw classes required to attend, bonus-point seekers and the odd number of curious folks. Mid-level comedians will typically draw from 30 to 200 students with nothing better to do on a Tuesday night. These are reasonable estimations, made reasonable because they have proven accurate time and time again.

But a battle of the bands is and always has been a question mark in terms of drawing a crowd. It could be a smashing success, or it could bomb out. Still, if nothing else, an event like that gives students a reason to show local pride, musicians a shot at exposure and local fame and the university a chance to test the waters with unusual programming.

So yes, the online poll may not be the best way to handle a BOTB. But, considering the attention Crocs’ poll has already drawn, SAC, Student Life and Eastern in general should have an improved perspective on how well traditional BOTBs would do in terms of drawing a crowd.

And if nothing else, it’s always good to shoot for for school spirit and local pride.