Cambodia Rocks Out at Third Annual Battle of the Bands

The five 12th-graders onstage called themselves Radio Warfare and they were gearing up to play The Ramones’ song “Blitzkrieg Bop.” A girl in the audience let out a little yelp of excitement. And then the crowd began to clap as the young rockers from the Inter­national School Phnom Penh began: “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!”

Radio Warfare’s frontman, Chris Wild, 18, bounced from stage to amplifier to floor and back as he cranked out the lyrics to the 1970s punk band’s classic—it was a performance of which the late Joey Ra­mone would have approved.

The 3rd Battle of the Bands at ISPP on Friday night was almost entirely an affair of the mostly expatriate students at the International School and Phnom Penh’s other elite high school, Northbridge In­ter­national School Cambodia. And could they rock.

The battling bands: Novice, In­jured Avarice, Abyss, Radio War­fare, Slip Slot and Teddy and the Bears chose mostly songs toward the heavier end of the rock spectrum. Before the Ramones, the crowd had already listened to covers from such perennials as Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Green Day and U2.

Towering above the young students around him in the crowd as well as those onstage, one man’s close-cropped salt and pepper hair stuck out above the rest. But the bespectacled principal of ISPP, Rob Mockrish, was also cheering along to the Ramones rendition.

“Of course I enjoy it,” Mockrish said. “It is neat.”

The Battle of the Bands was really a fundraising event, Mockrish said. The profit from the event, which saw some 150 people gather on the basketball courts at ISPP’s campus, would go toward the school’s Saturday morning radio show, Home Room Show.

The event was also about showing parents and the public in general just what ISPP students can do musically.

When Radio Warfare exited the stage, front singer Wild raised his hand as a farewell and jumped from the stage onto the asphalt of the basketball court. It was time for the three judges to pick a winner.

Last year’s winners Abyss, the youngest band in the competition—all ISPP 8th graders—sat nervously on a bench surrounded by their supporters as the judge called out their second place position, ahead of third-place Novice.

“I am not disappointed. I think it is because of the age we did not win,” said Abyss’ frontman, 13-year-old Derryn Young. “Some of the older students are better than us,” he said as Abyss left to listen to the final encore of the evening.

Radio Warfare took the honors and the $60 prize for winning the battle. Wild, true to his name, jump­ed up and down as he heard the announcement. “That feels good!” he yelled before muttering a number of possible reasons why Warfare won: Good upbeat tunes that everybody knows, frantic stage performance and, of course, enthusiasm.

Called up to the stage for the winner’s encore, the band gathered around to make a seemingly hard choice: replay the Ramones song or a new number. In true rock-star fashion, they settled on playing both. First up, the Ramones: “Hey! Ho! Let’s go! Hey! Ho! Let’s go!”

 

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