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Music 101

There are no debutantes at this Ball.

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KJHK 90.7, the University of Kansas' 3,100-watt student-run radio station, cultivates a special breed of music snob. After spending a month requesting three-song demos from local bands, it took ten station volunteers about two hours to sift through 75 demos and eliminate 60 bands.

"We were going pretty fast," says Casey Boyer, KJHK's live-events director, recalling the tempo of the listening party at which the volunteers selected the entrants for KJHK's battle of the local bands. "But there were plenty, plenty of put-the-disc-in-and-immediately [say] 'Oh, my God, take it out!' moments. I won't even start with some of their names."

With two CD players at the ready to maximize efficiency and minimize discomfort, the panel played demos randomly and anonymously, then voted on them. Between bouts of alarmingly similar attacks on the power chord -- which acted as an immediate flag for elimination -- the jury of picky peers enjoyed precisely 15 examples of not as grindingly clichéd recorded music. Those 15 demos were then whittled down to the elite eight, which KJHK presents as contenders in this year's Farmer's Ball.

Among those eight acts, Boyer won't reveal her pick to win, but she gladly describes the bands she believes are entitled to more awareness. On the first night of competition, those honors fall to Fromage and Paul Protocol, whom Boyer compares to MC Paul Barman -- "but more humorous, not as crass." Also playing are Hi Dive ("A really, really solid indie band," she says), Sad Fingers ("Upbeat, sorta screamy angular rock") and Matt Rice ("A singer-songwriter along the lines of Neil Young or Bob Dylan").

Night two showcases Kansas City MC Reach and Tyler Jack Anderson's "electronic-influenced rock -- a good combination of beats and acoustic." Boyer also predicts more "pretty fucking crazy electronic stuff -- like Squarepusher, but more insane" from Nokulem. And "kind of spacey indie rock" from the unfortunately named Chemical Ali.

We didn't know that KU offered master's degrees in rockology, but it sounds like Boyer is at the top of her class.

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