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WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble

The WBCN Rock 'n' Roll Rumble, begun in 1979, is a Greater Boston "battle of the bands" co-sponsored by WBCN-FM.

Its predecessors were the Bicentennial Tournament of the Bands held in 1976 at The Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts and co-sponsored by WBCN and Inn Square Men's Bar as well 1978's First Annual Spring Rock 'n' Roll Festival co-sponsored by WBCN and the Boston Phoenix.

The Rock & Roll Rumble was held in Boston at the Rathskeller in Kenmore Square for its first two years and was often referred to as "the Rumble at the Rat". Steve Morse of the Boston Globe called the 1979 debut competition "nine nights of exhilarating grass-roots rock."

The competition's venue has changed several times but remains a means for New England bands to gain visibility. In recent years, the competition was held at The Middle East in Cambridge. The competition moved to Harper's Ferry in Allston in 2007.

Format of the Rumble

The Rumble in its current form begins in April with a week of preliminary rounds of 24 total bands, as selected by WBCN. The prelims take place on Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday, with Wednesday as a "Day of Rest." Each night, four bands play a 30-minute set and are judged by a rotating selection of representatives the Boston music industry. A winner is announced at the end of the night.

Each night's winner moves on to the semi-finals the following weekend, with two wildcard bands rounding out the top 8. The two semi-final winners are joined by one wildcard band for the final round the week after that. A special guest, usually a national touring band, headlines the finals while the judges come to their final decision.

Prizes include cash, studio time, legal services, album production, bragging rights, and more.

Eligibility for the Rumble

The official criteria for Rumble eligibility are endlessly debated, but in general the band:

  • should be based in Boston or its suburbs
  • has released an album and received airplay on WBCN
  • plays all or mostly original material
  • cannot be signed to a major label
  • cannot have members associated with CBS or its affiliates

Judging Criteria

As of 2007, WBCN uses 45 judges (barring unforeseen circumstances), five for each night for the nine nights of competition. Each evening there are representatives from the music business, local media and on-air personalities from WBCN judging the bands. The judges observe each band and numerically score each 30-minute set. At the end of the night, the judges' scores are tallied two ways: 1) a straight tally of all judges' scores; and 2) a tally throwing out the high and low scores, using the middle scores as a backup in case of a tie or in the rare case of extreme bias in either direction. This method is intended to protect the bands against judging anomalies in the long run.

1. Material/Songwriting: Is the songwriting predictable or innovative? (possible 1-10 points)

2. Playing Effectiveness: How well did the band play? Was the overall sound tight? Innovative? Intriguing? (possible 1-10 points)

3. Vocal Effectiveness: How well did the vocals contribute to and enhance the band? (possible 1-10 points)

4. Timing: How well did the band pace its set? Did the songs flow well? Did the set build in intensity, or start strong and then fall off? (possible 1-10 points)

5. Bonus (Optional): This category is available as a special reward if for any reason the judge feels the band deserves a bonus. The judge must designate what prompted the assignment of bonus points. (possible 1-5 points)

History of the Rumble

Year Winner Finalists Venue Semifinalists
2008 Girls Guns and Glory The Great Bandini, A.K.A.C.O.D. (wildcard) Harper's Ferry (Allston, MA) Andrea Gillis, HUMANWINE, The Men, Jason Bennett and the Resistance (wildcard), Clouds (wildcard)
Participating Bands: Me and Joan Collins, Cherry S/T, Cheater Pint, Wild Zero, Daniel Bon and Future Ghosts, Cortez, Dirt Mall, The Shills, The Murder Mile, Watts, On The Drop, Medicated Kisses, Hel Toro, Forgetful Jones, Genuflect, Disappearer (Special Guest Band on the night of the Finals: The first Rock and Roll Rumble winners The Neighborhoods)
2007 Township Baker, The Indefinite Article (wildcard) Harper's Ferry (Allston, MA) The Silver Lining, Protokoll, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, Aloud (wildcard), Age Rings (wildcard)
Other Participating Bands: Octave Museum, The Appreciation Post, Larkin Brigade, Cassavettes, Ark Royal, My Little Radio, Strictly for the Birds, Six Day Slide, UV Protection, The Self-Righteous Brothers, The Welch Boys, Meet The Day, KID:NAP:KIN, My So-Called Friend, The Vital Might, Hepburn, Sick Puppies (special guests)
2006 Campaign for Real-Time (wildcard) Scamper, The Rudds The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) Appomattox, We're All Gonna Die (wildcard), Harris, Eyes Like Knives, Taxpayer (wildcard)
Other Participating Bands: Alchemilla, A Hero Next Door, Cocked 'N' Loaded, Mach 5, Plan B, Say When, Casey Desmond, Certainly Sir, Sucka Brown, Tiger Saw, The Coffin Lids, The Sharking, Jonas Complex, Rooftop Suicide Club, Random Acts of Violence, Faces On Film
2005 Reverend Glasseye (wildcard) Robby Roadsteamer, Furvis The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) Fluttr Effect, The Hidden (wildcard), Beyond the Embrace, The Marvels, Muck and the Mires
Other Participating Bands: Lock & Key, The Bon Savants, Spitzz, Emergency Music, Baby Boy H, Stray Bullets, Car Crash Show, Endway, The Turpentine Brothers, Antler, Sudden Ease, Aberdeen City, Mass Hysteria, Rubikon, Violet Nine, Sand Machine
2004 Jake Brennan & the Confidence Men The Dents, The Brett Rosenberg Problem (wildcard) The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) Seemless, Jabe, The Information (wildcard), The Model Sons, Stoic
Other Participating Bands: Black Helicopter, The Charms, Every Forty Seconds, Fooled by April, Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women, Iluminada, Meat Depressed, Orange Island, Paranoid Social Club, Raymond, Redletter, Roxie, The So and So's, The Spaceshots, Sugabomb, Throe
2003 The Dresden Dolls Baby Strange, Apollo Sunshine (wildcard) The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) Blake Hazard (wildcard), Kingsize, The Downbeat 5 (wildcard), Favorite Atomic Hero, The Good North
Other Participating Bands: Absolve, Blackstone Valley Crew, Boxingwater, Donnybrook, Elcodrive, Godboxer, The Halogens, Heavy Stud, Kimone, Labb, Placer, Read Yellow, Reverse, Rocktopus (this band now goes by the name As Fast As), Suspect Device, Three Day Threshold
2002 The Gentlemen Quitter, Mr. Airplane Man (wildcard) The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) Lost City Angels, The Damn Personals, Give, Milligram (wildcard), The Jaded Salingers (wildcard)
Other Participating Bands: All the Queen's Men, Auto Interiors, Averi, Calendar Girl, Chauncey, Crash and Burn, Hazie Maze, House of the Almighty, Loveless, Major Major, Mappari, Mishima USA, Munk, Spookie Daly Pride, Throne, The Meghan Toohey Band
2001 Bleu Cracktorch, Kings of Nuthin' (wildcard) The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) The Decals, Freezepop, *AM Stereo, 2 others from list below
Other Participating Bands: Banjo Spiders, Diecast, Euonym, Flynn, Francine, Gage, Garrison, The High Ceilings, The In Out, Jericho, Johnny Wishbone, Junction 18, The Kitty Kill, Lamont, Pennywheel, Reach the Sky, Say Hi to Lisa, Slater
2000 Darkbuster Waltham, Rocketscience (wildcard) The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) Colepitz, The Big Bad Bollocks, Helicopter Helicopter, The Dubnicks, Random Road Mother (wildcard)
Other Participating Bands: Caged Heat, Dragstrip Courage, Every Second, The Fly Seville, Godboy, Long Distance Runner, Missing Joe, Mission, NOK, Psychotic Larry, Rock City Crimewave, Scarlet Haven, 7th Rail Crew, There, Wide Iris, The World Is My Fuse
1999 The Sheila Divine The Shods, Halfcocked (wildcard) ? ?
Other Participating Bands: Baby Ray, Big Lick, Brass Monkeys, Canine, Cave-In, Cheerleadr, Control Group, Drexel, Fastbreak, Gangsta Bitch Barbie, Honeyglazed, Jumprope, Kicked in the Head, Lunar Plexus, Ms. Pigeon, Quick Fix, Raging Teens, Red Eye 9, Senor Happy, Seventeen, Superhoney
1998 The Ghost of Tony Gold Vic Firecracker ? ?
Other Participating Bands: American Measles, Betty Goo, Betwixt, Big D and the Kids Table, Big Wig, The Ducky Boys, Full Powered Halo, Inhale Mary, January, Lockgroove, Max, Mindflow, My Favorite Relative, Piebald, Pistola, Racketeers, Sameasyou, Shyness Clinic, Star Ghost Dog, Tugboat Annie, Ultrabreakfast, Wicked Farleys
1997 The Amazing Royal Crowns Ramona Silver ? ?
Other Participating Bands: Boy Wonder, Bright, Cast Iron Hike, Cherry 2000, Chevy Heston, Count Zero, Delta Clutch, Eight Ball Shifter, Five Seconds Expired, Laurie Geltman Band, Lincolnville, Mudhens, One of Us, The Pills, Rosemary Caine, Scissorfight, Red Time, Splashdown, Standing on Earth, The Sterlings, 3 1/2 Girls, Verago-go
1996 Trona Quintaine Americana ? ?
Other Participating Bands: Bald Guys, Bison, Blauzur, Chelsea on Fire, Deliriants, The Gravel Pit, Honkyball, Jabbering Trout, Jack Frosting, Jocobono, Pie, Plank, Red Telephone, Roadsaw, Skavoovie and the Epitones, St. Chimaera, Thought Junkie, Turkish Delight, Ukla, Underball, V-Card, Jules Verdone
1995 Doc Hopper Pooka Stew The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Angry Salad, Crawl, Curious Ritual, The Curtain Society, Elevator Drops, Expanding Man, Fly Spinach Fly, Groovasaurus, Little John, Mistle Thrush, Nana, Otis, Planet Be, Planet Jumper, Quivvver, Rippopotamus, sirensong, Slide, Still Home, Syrup, Vehicle Birth, Waiting Cates
1994 The Dirt Merchants 6L6 ? ?
Other Participating Bands: Blair's Carriage, Cold Water Flat, Courage Brothers, Gingerbutkis, Groove Butcher, Hartwell, Headcleaner, Kudgel, Machinery Hall, Merang, Mung, Opium Den, Pods, Scotch, Sextiles, Slughog, Smackmelon, Squid, Stickmen, Tacklebox, Thumper, Jennifer Trynin Band
1993 Cobalt 60 Malachite ? ?
Other Participating Bands: Augusta Furnace, Brave New World, Chloe, Chuck, Dante's Grin, DDT, Dreams Made Flesh, Facts About Rats, Fleshflower, Flying Nuns, Grind, Jigsaws, Laurels, Mercy Beat, Mr. Stone's Country, Pipes, Restless Souls, Sextons, Tree, Sidewalk Gallery, Thinner, Twisted Roots
1992 Big Catholic Guilt The Concussion Ensemble Paradise Rock Club (Boston, MA) Fighting Cocks, Letters to Cleo (wildcard), Orangutang, Sam Black Church, Stomp Box, Morphine (wildcard)
Other Participating Bands: The Barnies, Braindance, Burnbox, Crazy Alice, Hotbox, Paper Squares, Parade, Powerman 5000, Sexploitation, Subterraneans, The Swinging Steaks, Trojan Ponies, The Uninvited, Vision Thing, Wadi Trip, Zouts
1991 Seka Uncle Betty Paradise Rock Club (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Bulkhead, Cliffs of Dooneen, The Dambuilders, The Derangers, Divinity School, Eletrichka, Fertile Virgin, Grand Theft Auto, Hellcats from Outer Space, Jon Finn Group, Laughing Academy, Lazy Susan, Left Nut, Maelstrom, Miles Dethmuffen, Mindgrinder, Nisi Period, Pact, J. Rubin and Bohemian Love Fest, Still Life, Storm Window, Wrecking Crew
1990 Slaughter Shack Talking to Animals Paradise Rock Club (Boston, MA) We Saw The Wolf (wild card)
Other Participating Bands: Border Patrol, Daisy Chain, Delusions of Grandeur, Drumming on Glass, El Caminos, Ex-Girlfriends, Gigolo Aunts, Gingerbread Men, Green Magnet School, Hollow Heyday, Immortals, Joe, Miranda Warning, Nor'easters, Scatterfield, Voodoo Dolls, Vow of Silence, We Saw the Wolf, Who Be Dat?, Whoville, Miss Xanna Don't, Zug Zug
1989 The Bags Ultra Blue Paradise Rock Club (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Anastasia Screamed, Big Barn Burning, Big Train, Blake Babies, Blood Oranges, Busted Statues, Circle Sky, Common Ailments of Maturity, Happy Campers, Hell Toupee, Kenne Highland, Hullabaloo, Idle Hands, The Joneses, Kid Crash, Garr Lange and the Big Rig, Pieces, Premiers, A Scanner Darkly, Slapshot, Two Saints, Well Babies
1988 Heretix Tribe Paradise Rock Club (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Bim Skala Bim, Bullet LaVolta, Citizenz, Class Action, Dharma Bums, Dixie Cinema, Dogzilla, Forever 19, Great Divide, Incredible Casuals, The Lemonheads, Matweeds, Neutral Nation, 1-4-5, One Life, Pat on the Back, Plate o' Shrimp, Raindogs, Runaway Dan, Slaves, Think Tree, Titanics
1987 Childhood The Rain The Orpheum (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Ammo, Big Dipper, Catalinas, Cave Dogs, Dr. Black's Combo, Gotham City, Al Halliday and the Hurricanes, Tom Keegan and the Language, Moose and the Mudbugs, Moving Targets, Nova Mob, Powerglide, Rapture of the Deep, Shake the Faith, Struggle, Tom Hambridge and the Wreckage, Taint, Tears, Treat Her Right, Unattached, Vasco da Gama, Wickermen
1986 Gang Green Hearts On Fire ? ?
Other Participating Bands: Bang, Beat Surrender, Blockyard, Body English, Bristols, Buddy System, Capture the Flag, Children of Paradise, Condo Pygmies, Cut 299, Eighth Route Army, Expose, The Five, Loose Ties, Not, Oysters, Pulse 8, Semper Fi, True Blue, Visigoths, Volcano Suns, World at Play
1985 Down Avenue Adventure Set The Orpheum (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Ata-Tat, Bamboo Gang, Band 19, Blaros, Chain Link Fence, Dogmatics, Dumptruck, Fingerpaint, FUs, Holy Cow, Last Stand, Life on Earth, Lowgistics, MX, New Man, O Positive, Rash of Stabbings, Scruffy the Cat, Sons of Sappho, Souls, Underachievers, Vandykes
1984 The Schemers Dub 7 The Metro (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Athens, Axminster, Ball and Pivot, Blackjacks, Breakfast in Bed, Drive, Gluons, Going Graffiti, Judy's Tiny Head, Pink Cadillac, Push Push, Red, Reflectors, Rods and Cones, Ron Scarlett, Skin, SSD, Those Upstarts, 1 Three Hands, Turbines, 2,000,000 B.C., Wild Kingdom
1983 'Til Tuesday The Sex Execs The Metro (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Mickey Bliss, Catch, Christmas, Colors, Del Fuegos, Digney Fignus, Drezniak, Jeff and Jane Hudson, Jerry's Kids, Lifters, Lizzie Borden and the Axes, MIAs, Nebulas, New Romance, Phantoms, Prime Movers, Psycho, Radio Novena, Salem 66, Smegma and the Nunz, Stickball, Mike Viola Alliance
1982 Limbo Race The Hi-Beams Spit; finals at The Metro (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Angry Young Bees, Dangerous Birds, Dream, Enemy, Fire Dept., Foreign Legion, Jackals, Johnny A's Hidden Secret, Last Sacrifice, Chris Martin Group, Mighty Ions, Native Tongue, New Career featuring Audrey Clark, Primary Colors, Primitive Romance, Proletariat, Puppet Rulers, Red Line, Gary Shane and the Detour, 21-645, Wild Stares, Zodio Doze
1981 Someone and The Somebodies The Dark Spit; finals at The Metro (Boston, MA) Young Snakes, Face to Face, ...
Other Participating Bands: Art Yard, Balloon, Creamers, Death in the Shopping Malls, Extremes, Face to Face, Freeze, Future Dads, Junkmail, Tennie Komar and the Silencers, Lines, Modes, Neats, Outlets, Planet Street, Runes, Satellites, Stains, Suade Cowboys, Swinger's Resort, V, Young Snakes
1980 Pastiche France The Rat (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: American Teen, Boys Life, Darling, Peter Dayton Band, Eggs, Ground Zero, Harlequin, Hot Dates, Hot Tips, Loners, Make, Mirrors, MPC and the Instigators, Names, Nationals, Peytons, Remakes, Shades, Slow Children, Sonics, Third Rail, Trademarks
1979 The Neighborhoods La Peste The Rat (Boston, MA) ?
Other Participating Bands: Arion Deuce, Charge, Classic Ruins, Dawgs, Harlequin, Hits, Jets, Kid Morocco, Lazers, Lyres, Maps, Meltdown, Mission of Burma, Phobia, Reckless, Rings, Streets, Marc Thor, Thrills, Unnatural Axe, Vinny Band, Zoo Types
1978 La Peste The Mechanics Inn Square Men's Bar ?
Other Participating Bands: Baby's Arm, Lazers, Stompers, Marc Thor, Thrills, Unnatural Axe
1976 Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band The Club in Cambridge ?
Other Participating Bands: Back Alley Band, Boize, Fox Pass, High Heels, Infliktors, Marshalls, Pep's Energy, Third Rail

Sources

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