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Hamming It Up at the Aquarium

Music | May 16th, 2024

By John Showalter

john.d.showalter@gmail.com

Musicians in the Fargo-Moorhead area are often supportive of each other. They will attend each other’s shows, collaborate on projects, play as openers for each other, so on and so forth. However, there is nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition — and that is why we have Battle of the Hamm’s. A veritable tradition for The Aquarium at this point, Battle of the Hamm’s sees several local bands face off in a battle of the bands where the prize is a hefty amount of cold, refreshing Hamm’s beer.

“It was started in the early 2000s by once punk kids, turned now punk adults,” said Ryan Hoffart, co-director of the Aquarium since 2019, promoter for Fish Tank Promotions and Flower Envy Collective, and vocalist for local musical stalwarts Baltic to Boardwalk, who will be celebrating their 15th anniversary this winter. “It became an annual/bi-annual event for bands that didn’t normally get to play together to play a fun show.”

Baltic to Boardwalk took part in the battle for the first time during last year’s event. But this year, Hoffart is content to promote, spectate, and support.

Originally, this year’s Battle of the Hamm’s was scheduled to take place in February. But due to scheduling issues it was postponed to late spring. This year there are nine bands in the lineup: Frost Found UsHorse Hockey, LOUM, Meatshoe, Others, rana danta (all lowercase), The Sunflower Burial, Under Siege (the current champions), and Zero Place.

“The entry fee for all bands is a 30 pack of Hamm’s with the bands getting a random set time during the evening to not play favorites,” said Hoffart. “The winner is voted on by all paying customers and whoever has the most votes gets all 300 cans of Hamm’s, along with the historic Hamm’s championship belt. (It’s a kid’s belt.)”

Hoffart encouraged anyone interested in attending the event to buy a presale ticket, as it tends to sell out.

Two of the bands in this year’s line up, Horse Hockey and rana danta, will be making their live debut during this year’s battle and were happy to introduce themselves before the epic battle takes place.

“We are Horse Hockey,” said Patrick Finnicum, bassist and vocalist for the band. He also produces electronic music under the moniker Parliament Lite. “Three best buds who love to laugh and play loud music together.”

He described their music as, “You know, the standard power slop, with a sprinkle of twinkle daddy shimmer, and prankin’ music.” The band is also composed of Troy Gion, who plays guitar for the band, as well as bass in the bands Crucial Tauntaun and Under Siege, and Jon Weber, who plays drums in Horse Hockey and also in Falling in a Dream and Devilcatessin. All three members also play in the band Disappear Forever and an ambient folk project called Ornamental Horticulture.

“We started working on Horse Hockey in early 2023 and when Ryan Hoffart asked us if we were interested in playing Battle of the Hamm’s. We thought it would be a perfect first show,” said Finnicum. “We don’t have formal recordings yet, but we have demos recorded for our first EP. We would love to release it on tape through a label, but at this point we are strictly a DIY operation.”

“We have only been jamming together since January-ish,” said Kord Maurer, vocalist and guitarist for rana danta, the other debuting band. It’s comprised of Justin Hatcher as another vocalist and guitarist, Mike Ruebke on bass, and Tyler Loranger on drums. Maurer and Ruebke previously played together in a band called Grazing, and Hatcher was previously in a band called High Hopes.

“But Justin and I have been writing music for what would become this project for a few years now,” said Maurer. “I’d thrown the idea and some demos to Mike forever ago, but life kinda just happened and we couldn’t find time for it, and then Tyler hit me up and we immediately jumped on it. After getting coffee, we decided to hit up Justin, because he’d sent me some stuff he’d been working on after I’d expressed interest in playing drums for him. Next thing we knew, we rented a practice space and now we are jamming once a week!”

Like Horse Hockey, rana danta has not officially released or recorded anything yet, but they are considering hitting the studio this fall or winter. “Our music is kinda hard to pin down, but I think all of our songs and our approach to writing could fit under the umbrella of ‘emo,’’ said Maurer. “Our sound touches on a lot of different bands and eras of that genre, as well as a little influence from pop-punk and shoegaze.”

When asked if they had any words for the competition, the two bands made some good-spirited jibes. “The real prize is the friends we made along the way,” said Finnicum.

“Horse Hockey’s about to score a hat trick on your heart. Also, PRAISE MEAT SHOE,” said Maurer.

IF YOU GO:

Battle of the Hamms

May 24

6:30 p.m.

The Aquarium

226 Broadway in Fargo

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