Prestige Worldwide, the defending champions who won Airbandz in its inaugural year, have thrown down the gauntlet.
“As a group, we would like to guarantee a unanimous decision that we will win this year from all the judges,” senior Kevin Hackett said.
Hackett and his group’s guarantee shows how serious some participants take a lighthearted, hilarious show that is in its second year at Springfield College. Airbandz has taken big steps forward after being initiated as an idea from second-year graduate student and former Resident Director Bas Gohar. The lip-syncing competition was not an original idea, however, but instead traveled with Gohar from Canada.
Gohar attended Laurentian University in Greater Sudbury, Ontario as an undergraduate, and was immediately influenced by a campus event that mesmerized his eyes and ears.
“Coming [in] as a freshman I was taken with my floor in the residence hall just to watch Airbandz, and I was very impressed,” Gohar said. “Basically, I fell in love.”
The event that Gohar fell head over heels for is a unique concept that was created by a former undergraduate student at Laurentian named Michael “Dex” Brown. The concept of Airbandz is quite simple, yet ingenious. In SC’s version, which is run by Residence Life, groups of at least three people perform a six to eight minute act composed of a medley of songs by lip-syncing and dancing. Groups are judged on lip-syncing, costumes, choreography, stage presence and overall performance, according to Abbey Resident Director Jes Charette-Fallon, who is heading the event this year.
The event will be held in Judd Union West on April 20. Doors open at 9 p.m., and the show will start at 9:30 p.m. and last until around 11 p.m. There are 300 seats available. Tickets cost $2, and all proceeds will go to Mercy Medical Center’s Sister Caritas Cancer Center, the same beneficiary that Residence Life partnered with last year.
“It’s hilarious [and] it’s a really good show, but at the same time it’s for a cause,” Charette-Fallon said. “I think when you combine those two things, it really embodies the mission of Springfield College.”
Airbandz is a huge event at Gohar’s alma mater, and has raised over $100,000 in its nine-year existence. It is still in its beginning stages at SC, and raised approximately $1,200 last year according to Charette-Fallon. This year, however, she is hoping to double that amount since the committee who runs it is facing fewer obstacles.
“It’s definitely challenging when you’re starting something for the first time, just getting approval and going through all of the different offices and trying to build a hype,” Charette-Fallon said of last year’s process. “We already have one year behind us that was successful, so we’re just kind of building on that and making it even better.”
Gohar was adamant about brining the event to SC because he felt that it fit well into SC’s philosophy and had the potential to become an event that could last for the long haul.
“There are all these traditions that the school likes, and I said, ‘This would be a great tradition to have here,’” Gohar said.
Hackett originally only formed a team last year at Gohar’s request, because Gohar was short on teams at the time. After reluctantly agreeing to participate, Hackett said that he and his group had a great experience performing on stage. They went with a Step Brothers theme by performing only songs that appeared in the movie, including their grand finale of “Ice Ice Baby.”
“We put all of our choreography efforts into ‘Ice Ice Baby,’” Hackett said. “The rest of it we didn’t really have it choreographed, we kind of just flew by the seat of our pants.”
The seat of their pants was good enough to impress the panel of judges, who awarded them the first-ever Airbandz championship. This year, Hackett and his team did not need to be asked again to compete; they willingly signed up.
“This is my last chance to defend my title here, so we want to get a clean sweep of our two years,” Hackett said. “We have a couple rules within the group, like, ‘if you mess up during the performance, you have to buy everyone in the group dinner. So we take it very seriously.”
Unlike last year, every part of Prestige Worldwide’s act is choreographed this time around. They have also added a fifth member, Andy Collentro to their core. The returners include Joe Flannigan, Aaron Landolt, Derek Foy and Hackett.
The group holds practices at least twice a week and has gone costume shopping at Salvation Army and Marshalls in preparation for this year’s event. They will be competing against four other teams looking to unseat them from their throne.
The groups will be judged by a panel that is comprised of Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students David Braverman, Director of Housing and Residence Life Tarome Alford, a representative from Mercy Medical, Dr. Catherine Carton, and Gohar, who is the only new addition to last year’s panel.
“My only request was to be a judge every year. I’ll come for it every year,” Gohar said. “This is something that I take a lot of pride in.”
Other than the four judges, there is an additional component that has been added to the selection this year. According to Charette-Fallon, audience members can pay $1 for a ticket to put in a jar for their favorite act, and can buy as many tickets as they want. This also serves as another way of raising money for Mercy Medical and its cancer research center.
Despite these strides, Airbandz is still in its developing stages, but even as Gohar prepares to graduate he has high hopes for the program that he helped to get off the ground.
“Eventually once this program evolves it’s going to have its own SC flavor to it and it’s going to have perhaps its own ‘house’ rules,” Gohar said. “My hope is that it’s well-known and that we are just trying to set the bar higher every year.”
Joe Brown may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org