Student-led classic rock cover band Midnight Steel was named the Best Band in Tuscaloosa 2022 after winning the first-ever Battle of the Bands.
Along with the title, the band won a $2,000 cash prize. The Wheelers, Poundcake and Amberwave earned second, third, and fourth place, respectively. All members of the competing bands are UA students.
Created by the Student Government Association, the Battle of the Bands fundraiser garnered nearly $7,500 for the Joe Espy Needs Based Scholarship that helps UA students alleviate financial hardships. Organizers couldn’t be more grateful for its success.
“I am so excited to bring these funds into such an impactful scholarship,” said Collier Dobbs, the SGA’s vice president for external affairs. “Whether it has been getting to watch all the bands form relationships with each other, see people of all ages in the crowds, or just meeting people along the way, this entire process has been full of joy and pure-heartedness.”
Midnight Steel, whose members include Chris Campisi (singer), Brett Holmes (drummer), Aaron Michaels (lead guitarist), Trevor O’Connor (rhythm guitarist) and Matthew Stumpf (bass guitarist), formed in September 2021 and performed their first gig just two weeks later. They’ve played local venues and in Birmingham and were thrilled to get as far as they did in the fundraiser.
“We had a ton of fun playing and a big thanks to SGA for putting on this event, along with everyone who supported us along the way. Everyone in the band worked hard and did a great job,” said O’Connor.
“Starting and playing in this band and this fundraiser has been an amazing experience. Having been classically trained on the flute, I never imagined that I would be playing in a rock band right now or that we would have come so far in such a short period of time,” added Stumpf.
“Aaron and I have known each other since elementary school and have each played guitar for over 10 years, and Matthew became our roommate sophomore year. He was an experienced musician as well and picked up the bass quickly during jam sessions in our dorm room,” said O’Connor.
“Aaron and I met Chris coincidentally when he was walking on campus freshman year singing a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I started singing along with him.” Campisi sings in the No Strings Attached a cappella group at UA, plays guitar and had prior experience with solo gigs.
“Then junior year, we all met Brett, who had experience with drumline and was studying audio engineering,” added O’Connor. “The pieces fell into place and we decided to start the band.”
Although they are currently a cover band, they bring something unexpected to each Midnight Steel show.
“A lot of bands can play Lynyrd Skynyrd, but you don’t see any other student bands in Tuscaloosa playing songs by Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith or AC/DC. We are lucky to have such talented musicians that we can play songs with those large vocal ranges and intense guitar solos,” said Stumpf.
“We work hard to pick songs that get our crowds engaged and having a good time, and we spend a lot of time perfecting our musicianship and performance skills.”
That hard work will soon pay off as the band records their first album, which they plan to release by the end of the year.
“We were inspired to work on this album because we want to showcase the talent and creativity of our musicians, in addition to creating a memento of our time together at UA.”
The Battle of the Bands competition began with bands applying in July. Round 1 voting took place in September through the SGA’s Instagram reels. Those winners moved on to Round 2, which was a live show at Druid City Social on Sept. 29. Those four winners performed on Oct. 20 for the final round.
The event’s success is owed in part to many on-campus and community partners, including corporate sponsors Tuscaloosa Toyota, The Next Round Live Podcast, The Shirt Shop and Taco Mama, said Dobbs.
“I would also like to thank the Alabama Interfraternity Council and Alabama Panhellenic Association for sponsoring the event and for their support throughout, as well as the staff at Druid City Social and Druid City Music Hall for their continued cooperation and for being so efficient,” he added.
Jennifer Brady, UA Strategic Communications, email@example.com