Three twenty-somethings schlepped their equipment all the way from Coventry to New Haven for a shot to enter the “Battle of the Bands”—but they weren’t looking to win.
And they didn’t win.
But their band, Destination Dimension, got what it was looking for.
The occasion was the regular Toad’s Place showcase aimed at highlighting little-known or unknown Connecticut bands. It took place Saturday upstairs in Lilly’s Pad.
Destination Dimension’s members knew they didn’t have much chance of winning the grand prize, recording time offered by Gorilla Music Studios. For starters, they’ve been playing their original “psychedelic metal” music all together for only a year.
And more importantly, they had sold a grand total of eight tickets to fans to attend the Battle. That meant they were on the program way at the beginning, while it was still light out and most of the crowd hadn’t even shown up yet. Nine bands were on the bill; they sold a total of 224 tickets.
“It’s not about winning,” explained 24-year-old guitarist Tony Nepoletano. Speaking for the trio, 25-year-old drummer Doug Adil said the group was “hoping we get some new fans.”
The three musicians have worked on their original four-song set list for nearly a year—since Adil joined. Before Adil, Jeremy Rogoz, the 23-year-old bass player, and Nepoletano had played together for seven years, beginning their junior years of high school. Before Rogoz and Nepoletano, Adil played with a group called Fate Kills the Hero, but he quit to finish his communications degree at UConn.
“At the end of that two years, I was desperate,” Adil said. A mutual friend connected Adil with Rogoz and Nepoletano, moving Adil from pop rock to what Rogoz called “psychedelic metal.” (Click on the play arrow to watch a sample.)
Leading up to Saturday, the members of Destination Dimension took time off from their full-time jobs to practice three times every week, with plans to start recording an EP.
Each band was assigned 20 minutes onstage, flanked by seven and a half minutes to set up and clear out, during Saturday’s “Battle.” Red River Soul sold 95 tickets, affording them the last time slot and the largest audience.
A band called Stamps the Goat opened the Battle. Destination Dimension was up next. As the setting sunlight reflected off Sterling Memorial Library and poured into the small room, the band members started moving their instruments onto the stage Rogoz introduced the band. “We’re going to make some noise,” he said. “We don’t sing, and we hope you like it.”
That was it for words, outside of naming each song before the band played.
To kick off the set, Destination Dimension launched into “Gross Spikes From Your Back,” a song vaguely inspired by Bowser from the Mario Brothers video games. Then came “Have a Ball With the Panic,” “Couldn’t Keep The Mystery In the Sky,” and, to finish, “Remember This.”
After the musicians finished their last song, Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain” began playing on the sound system as the band started unscrewing, zipping, and folding everything back into place. “We got off from it,” Rogoz uttered over the music, referring to the synthesizer’s backing tracks.
Nepoletano understood these small errors as part of the balancing act between “what’s easy to play and what’s impressive.” It makes sense, he said, to “take the risk.”
“I’m happy we made the trip,” said Adil. For Destination Dimension, this was a foot in a door the musicians had not opened before: Toad’s Place.
Destination Dimension members packed up and left without waiting to see which band would win. They had another gig—as audience members for friends whose band was playing in another competition, in Hartford.
At the end of the night, Shawna Viola, a Gorilla Music employee, stood up on the stage to help determine based on applause which three bands would advance to the final round. “Generally the first ones don’t get a lot of claps,” Viola explained to an audience that had at least doubled since the competition got going, “but it would be nice.”
Though Destination Dimension received some applause, the top two winners were clear: Red River Soul and Lion’s Teeth. Jellyface took the third spot after a second round of applause.