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Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

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"WTIA, Xconomy Battle of Tech Bands: Yeah, geeks can rock"

July 31, 2011

by on Friday, July 31, 2009, 2:04am PDT

GENE STOUT: At Seattle's first "Battle of the Tech Bands," a hip-hop group with links to Boeing beat out bands representing Microsoft, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard and other high-tech companies for "most innovative band" -- at least in the judges' view.

As for the audience favorite, it was a Microsoft-Adobe alliance that won the day with its bluesy, classic rock. And in case you're wondering, yes, tech geeks can rock. And rock hard. And don't call them geeks, especially the hair-swinging dudes from metal power trio Juda's Wake.

What started in Boston as an Xconomy networking event for music-minded techies made its Seattle debut Thursday night at the Pyramid Alehouse on First Avenue South across from Safeco Field. Co-host and organizer of the event was the Washington Technology Industry Assocation, which dubbed the rock 'n' roll party a "WTIA Summer Celebration."

Editor's Note: Veteran Seattle music critic Gene Stout, above, reviewed Xconomy's Battle of the Tech Bands on special assignment for TechFlash. Follow the former Seattle P-I writer's ongoing work on his blog, and contact him here.

A panel of judges -- music historian Peter Blecha, Vulcan Capital managing director Steve Hall and Microsoft Virtual Earth 3D program manager Jeff J. Lin, among others -- had winnowed a field of nearly two dozen entrants to five bands of widely varying styles, from fun-loving pop-rock group Afraid of Figs to hip-hop band Lions Ambition.

There was no dreck in this tech lineup.

Bands played spirited sets on a massive Car Toys portable stage hauled in on an 18-wheeler and set up in the parking lot.

The audience included hundreds of professionals from Seattle's high-tech sector, enjoying pints of Pyramid beer and hours of live music on a hot summer evening. Xconomy Seattle editor Greg Huang was pleased with the turnout, but envisioned a bigger event in 2010.

"Hopefully we can get more hard-core music fans next year," he said. Beneficiaries of the ticketed event included Jack Straw Productions and the Technology Access Foundation.

In many ways, "Battle of the Tech Bands" resembled Lawyerpalooza, a law-firm band competition that raises money for music education (the event wasn't held this year unfortunately). Each competing group in the "Tech Bands" showdown had at least one member from a Northwest technology firm.


Video: Excerpt of "most innovative band" Lions Ambition. Click for larger version.

And judging by the number of T-shirts, khaki shorts, tattoos and shaggy hairdos among contestants, dress codes are fairly lax at local technology companies.

Speaking of judging, the task of picking "most innovative band" fell to Huang, Blecha, WTIA CEO and president Ken Myer, Xconomy founder and editor-in-chief Bob Buderi and -- in the interest of full disclosure -- myself. (You can listen to clips from each of the bands here.)

Afraid of Figs took the stage first, and clearly had the wittiest songs of the five contenders.

The standout was "I Ate a Vegan," which made light of Seattle's political correctness and green-leaning lifestyles.

Also hilarious were "Rap Song," a parody of the rap idiom, and "Ritalin Barbie," an ode to an ex-girlfriend.

With ties to Morpho Trak and Robert Half Technology, the band drew comparisons to such fun-loving, hyper-kinetic bands as Barenaked Ladies and the Presidents of the United States of America.

Indigo Soul, a hard-charging band with a love of classic rock, featured vocalist Jerri Roberts, who added plenty of soulful energy to the band's 25-minute set. (Editor's note: The vocalist's name has been corrected).

Indigo Soul

The group, with links to Microsoft and Adobe, was led by singer-songwriter Mark Protus, a veteran of the bands Soup, Rope, Gun and Upstanding Members. Indigo Soul easily connected with the crowd, winning the "audience favorite" award (votes were cast via SMS text messaging from SinglePoint).

The prizes included one year of band promotional services donated by Boston-based Nimbit and two press releases from Marketwire.

Lions Ambition, representing Boeing in the high-tech pantheon, took flight with a powerful, melodic set marked by skillful, soulful rapping (the group plays Friday night, July 31, at El Corazon).

The group's cohesive sound, high energy level and beautifully intertwined vocals (oh, and cool plaid shorts) won over the five event judges, who annoited them "most innovative band."

Learning of their victory at the close of the evening, band members exploded in a frenzy of high-fives and big grins.

Juda's Wake, a trio of metal-loving brothers with Microsoft connections, was tremendously entertaining.

It was easy to imagine the band on the Ozzfest tour, headbanging its way across North America with a thunderous repertoire of ear-clobbering tunes.

Xconomy's Timmerman and Huang

The siblings looked the part as well, with long black hair, kilt-like shorts and rock-crushing boots.

The final band was Between These Lines, representing Hewlett-Packard. Last year, the group recorded its debut EP, "Familiar Places," with producer Brandon Bee in Tacoma.

The melodic alternative-rock band quickly tightened up after a somewhat sloppy start. And once it did, Between These Lines was a formidable live band, with a sound reflecting today's modern-rock radio formats.

The band closed its set with the catchy "Confess to Impress."

Gene Stout is a Seattle music critic who has reviewed thousands of bands in the past 25 years. Check out his blog here.
- Gene Stout / Xconomy

"Afraid Of Figs; Caught between Rock and a Hard Drive! “The Northwest Music Scene takes on Microsoft”"

– October 23, 2011Posted in: News

Here at the Northwest Music Scene we were taught to choose our battles carefully, but we don’t think we could have been more careful about picking this fight. What’s the worst that could happen right? And we promise you, this one could only happen in Seattle!
“The Northwest Music Scene takes on Microsoft”

“Afraid Of Figs” are currently embroiled in a hotly contested Battle of the Geek Bands, vying with “The Baudboys” of Microsoft to nab the wildcard spot and open up for The Presidents of the USA in Seattle at the Seattle Interactive Conference.

Looking closely at the contest we noticed a few things that may be working against our buddies in Afraid Of Figs.

Geekwire has a tab for Microsoft on their page and it might be sending the message that they are endorsing the Microsoft hometeam “The Baudboys”.

We also noticed that Geekwire has helped Microsoft musicians “The Baudboys” with the some press recently and we felt it was a little unfair to the guys in “Afraid Of Figs”, so the question of how we can help level the playing field arose.

Of course since we have a massive social network, we’ve seen the AOF band a few times and we’ve chatted with some of the members on Facebook and the phone, we knew what we had to do. Roll up our sleeves and get the vibrant Northwest Music Scene involved.

Let’s make it clear, we are not calling anyone out here, we’re just trying to assemble the troops and do our part to help.

Also, let’s keep it real…Geekwire has updated us with an article they did on Afraid Of Figs in March, so, our apologies for not catching that in the beginning.

Afraid Of Figs is far from hard rock but certainly even further from the Geek A Capella genre that is apparently catching on…who knew?

So far AOF has held their own in the contest (as of publication, the standings were 564 – 541 votes in favor of The Baudboys)and it has been a back and forth race but tomorrow(the last day for voting) will be quite interesting with the almost certain deluge that is coming when the Microsoft parking lot is full.

“We asked John Cook co-founder of Geekwire if Northwest Music Scene rockers “Afraid Of Figs” really have a chance against the “The Baudboys” of Microsoft?”

John’s response:

“This has been a close battle, and we’re closely monitoring the action to see who emerges as the victor. May the best band — or a capella group — win.”

Just to re-cap, here’s some of our original article from yesterday:

If you are a reader of the Northwest Music Scene website or a follower on Facebook or Twitter(If you’re not, you should be) you no doubt have heard the name “Afraid Of Figs“. They have been regulars on our Northwest Top 5 chart and were one of the bands featured in the “22 Bands in 22 Days” series that we recently ran.

One of the most-anticipated activities at next month’s Seattle Interactive Conference will be opening night’s Battle of the Geek Bands, a fast-paced competition in which five bands from the tech industry take to the stage at the Showbox Sodo.

Now, here’s the deal: Four of the bands have already been chosen by the SIC committee from a pool of more than 30 entries. That leaves one opening slot.

GeekWire readers will have the last word between the two final contenders: Afraid of Figs and The Baudboys.

We have voted and AOF gets our vote. The Baudboys are made up of current or former Microsoft employees so our buddies in AOF really need your support.

Watch the videos, and cast your vote for your favorite(AOF) in the poll below.

Voting will take place through Monday, October 24th at 5 p.m. at which point SIC will announce the five finalists, including the wild-card, community-supported entry chosen here.

Bands will take the stage November 1st, performing at the Showbox Sodo in front of an illustrious judging panel that includes Sir Mix-A-Lot; Chris Ballew and Jason Finn of the Presidents of the United States of America; - Northwest Music Scene

"Popular Seattle band Afraid of Figs coming to Pullman on first-ever tour"

Heading east

Seattle band Afraid of Figs will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the BellTower in Pullman.
Posted: Thursday, October 6, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:26 am, Mon Oct 24, 2011.

Popular Seattle band Afraid of Figs coming to Pullman on first-ever tour By Alan Solan Daily News staff writer Moscow-Pullman Daily News |

Seattle band Afraid of Figs compares itself to groups like Barenaked Ladies, Presidents of the United States of America and They Might Be Giants. And to look at their music videos on YouTube, one might assume they also are a big name, famous band.

They are not.

But that doesn't mean they won't be. They are, after all, a pretty big deal in Seattle - which in itself is no easy thing to do - and they play many of the city's best-known clubs including Neumos, The Showbox, Crocodile, Chop Suey and the Hard Rock Cafe.

Who knows? The video for their song "Don't Want to be Your Facebook Friend" could strike a nerve with the public and go viral. Then imagine all the Facebook friends the band would have.

That may well happen, but no matter what happens with the band, the Palouse will be an important part of its history: The BellTower in Pullman is going to be one of just three stops on the band's first-ever tour, which starts today in Kennewick.

The band will play Friday in Pullman and Saturday in Yakima, then return to Seattle.

The group is touring in support of their album "I Ate A Vegan," the single "Ritalin Barbie," and new video for "Don't Wanna Be Your Facebook Friend".

"We'll just go out on the road and see how many of us come back alive," Todd Goldenberg, the band's lead singer, main songwriter, publicist and co-manager said in an interview from Seattle on Tuesday.

"We don't know what to expect. We have some ideas."

Goldenberg said the group wants to get its "message" across like every other band, but they choose it do it mostly in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek way.

"It's not interesting to me to do it the way other people do," said Goldenberg, who goes by the name "Tee" in the band. The other members are "Chicken" on drums; "E.J." on guitar; "Crazy C" on saxophone and "Rainbow" on bass.

Goldenberg was in a band in New York City for three years prior to moving to Seattle four years ago. When the band broke up "I decided I could use a change," he said, having lived in the city for a decade, and he chose Seattle - not exactly as far away from New York as one can get, but close.

After living in Seattle for two years, Goldenberg set out to start a new band and, coincidentally, several of the players he eventually brought onboard were from or had lived in New York or New Jersey.

The band is self managed at present, with Goldenberg and Chris Bloomquist managing, booking and publicizing the band. That will change very soon, Goldenberg said, as the band has been talking with three potential managers/publicists and plans to make a decision on that aspect of the band following the mini-tour.

The band's popularity is growing, but the members all still work their day jobs. Goldenberg is the national sales manager for a sports promotions company. ("I sell bobble head dolls to NBA/MLB/NHL teams.") Crazy C is a tech recruiter, E.J. is a house painter, Chicken is a warehouse manager and Rainbow works for Starbucks.

The various members of the band have different views on everything from religion to politics, "but it's a group of guys that gets along really well," Goldenberg said. Members don't necessarily all agree on what they like, but "we all agree on what we hate," he said.

Goldenberg said he noticed a certain smugness or excessive political correctness when he moved to Seattle and, as a musician, he was able to do more than just remark on it or complain about it - he was able to deal with it through his art by writing a song about it. That song is "I Ate a Vegan," which was his way of "railing against Seattle and the Pacific Northwest."

"By putting it into lyrics, I'm able to point a finger at the crowd and say 'I know who you really are,' " he said.

Goldenberg said the band is excited and grateful for the opportunity to play at The BellTower.

"They're taking a chance on us, in a way," he said. "They're assuming we're going to put on a good show."

If the band delivers, "then it becomes this partnership," he said, and they'll return for more shows in the future.

"I'm already a fan of Pullman, and I've never even been there."

On the Web:

- Alan Solan, Moscow/Pullman Daily News

"Afraid of Figs wins the Battle of the Geek Bands"

Afraid of Figs won the final fifth slot for the Battle of the Geek Bands on Nov. 1

The Seattle Interactive Conference’s Battle of the Geek Bands is still more than a week away. But we’ve already had a pretty good skirmish leading up to the bash.

GeekWire readers cast online ballots over the past four days to elect the fifth and final entry for the competition, choosing between the rock band Afraid of Figs and the geek a cappella group The Baudboys.

Well, after an intense fight, and more than 1,800 votes cast, the winner is … Afraid of Figs.

The Baudboys jumped out to a commanding lead on Friday, but Afraid of Figs came on strong in the past two days to win with 63 percent of the vote.

So, who will Afraid of Figs — known for their song “(Don’t Wanna be Your) Facebook Friend” — face off against?

Here are the other four finalists, chosen earlier by a committee at the Seattle Interactive Conference, plus a video from Afraid of Figs. I’ll be judging the competition at the Showbox Sodo on Nov. 1, along with Sir Mix-a-Lot and members of the Presidents of the United States of America, so I’m already taking notes.

May the best geek band win. - John Cook, Geekwire

"Tonight in Music"

If blue eyeshadow and spandex stirrups aren’t your thing, lay your fears to rest. The new local band, Afraid of Figs is putting on a show at Neumos. Described as “Barenaked Ladies meets Cake,” the Figs are equally humorous, tongue-in-cheek as Leslie and the LY’s are. Afraid of Figs come at the listener with lyrics that lament on the trepidations of having to live a sustainable lifestyle. Recycling, for one, eating vegans another. A few choice lyrics are:

I hate to recycle – It’s a lot of work
Dividing garbage makes me feel just like a jerk.
Got a carbon footprint the size of Peru.
I like my S.U.V., and my hair spray too

[Click to listen] Afraid of Figs – “The Vegan Song”
Finding bands who have fun with music is refreshing, and Afraid of Figs make me certain that they are one band to look out for. - Seattle Show Gal


The initial CD, "I Ate a Vegan" is currently being played on college radio around the country. The 2nd CD ("Safe"), produced at London Bridge Studios (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden) was released April, 2012. AOF has been featured on Fake Label's Northwest Music Compilation CD. AOF can be found at, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and videos on YouTube.



"AOF" is a Seattle based indie-rock band with influences from Foo Fighters to Barenaked Ladies. Founded in 2009, AOF brings their wit and sardonic humor to the anti-establishment anthem "Don't Wanna be your Facebook Friend" and rockers such as "Hitchhiking To The Moon", "Safe Your Salvation", and "Ritalin Barbie". AOF's members share a dedication to great live sets, and a marketing/biz sensibility that few bands posess. With a growing fan base and long resume of clubs, festivals, and benefits, AOF are as reliable and professional as they are engaging and dynamic.