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Murray Journal

Murray High’s Toad rock band jammed during Battle of the Bands gig

Jun 01, 2021 11:05AM ● By Julie Slama

Case Elliott, Maddie Ballard and Alex Johnson make up the rock band, Toad, who competed virtually in the multi-regional Battle of the Bands. (Photo courtesy of Jeannette Bowen/Murray PTA)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Murray High junior Alex Johnson likes to strum on his electric guitar along with his friends who make up the rock band, Toad.

So in 2020, when Utah PTA posted the annual Battle of the Bands competition, the group signed up to compete for Murray School District’s title. Only, last year’s event was canceled because of the soft closure of schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, PTA region 19 PTA president Jeannette Bowen remembered the group and invited them to represent the school district at the regional Battle of the Bands competition. 

“Toad was the only group who had responded to the call for Battle of the Bands before the pandemic outbreak, so we wanted to offer them the opportunity this year,” she said. 

As part of the competition, Toad had to play a cover song as well as an original piece. This year, however, it was not performed live, but videotaped on their school stage.

“With all the tech, lights and sound, it took hours and hours to set up,” Bowen said.

Johnson said that the school’s tech club helped to set up lights around the band and helped them pick out a backdrop that looked like “a weird futuristic thing that looked cool.” The tech club also helped them set up the microphones and monitored the sound level.

After that, it was filmed like a competition with the band having a 10-minute limit to play the set and take it down.

Johnson, who also plays in the school’s jazz band, said that it “was a little different than we had expected” since it was not live.

“In a way, there was no pressure as it can be scary to go on in front of people on stage,” he said. “But, at the same time, we didn’t have the energy to feed off of the crowd so that was hard.”

After finding their music online and working out the “instrumental parts that are kind of tricky,” the group performed “Bastille Day,” by Rush, with their bass guitarist, Murray High junior Case Elliott, singing and “hitting all the high notes,” Johnson said. 

The lyrics of Toad’s original song, “Crawling Slow,” were written by Elliott, with Johnson adding in the guitar and bass and drummer and Brighton High junior Maddie Ballard adding in the percussion part.

“I played with Maddie in another band and she’s a mutual friend of ours, so we’ve gotten together every week or two over the past year or so—even during COVID, we’ve tried to figure out a way to play,” he said. “Our original song is heavier than Rush, but it’s not metal. It’s more like old school metal sound.”

Bowen, who got to witness the recording, said their performance “sounded really great, they have a lot of talent and did a great job” although she wished they could have performed in person so more people could enjoy the music.

The group lost to Bingham High’s Paper Cut Party in the multi-regional competition, the band that eventually won the fans’ favorite title at the state competition that was held at SLCC’s Grand Theatre announced by area performer, Alex Boyé. Squid Picnic from Bountiful High won the state title.

“It was fun to do and have this experience,” Johnson said. “It was cool.”