Brisbane’s first Battle of the Tech Bands

Battle of the Tech Bands 2022

I’m a Londoner at heart but have been living in Australia for nearly 15 years, the first 12 of those in Melbourne. I was lucky enough to become a GM at Envato in the early days, where I learned about the value of community. The founders of Envato held the value of community at the forefront of all of their decisions. The community being their family, the team, their customers (authors and creators) and the wider community of fellow tech companies.

The power of bringing people together and lifting them up was a real value, not just a poster.

When James Ross joined our business to lead our engineering practice, he brought a new connection to Nigel Dalton, then CIO at REA. Both of them are lovers of music and great guitarists.

Nigel had been running a Melbourne-based Battle of the Bands for years and James Ross nominated Envato as a band. We didn’t even have a band.

Six months later, I sang on stage with James and the Envatones in front of a few hundred attendees from local tech companies from Seek to Thoughtworks. It is one of my favourite memories. There is a unique connection to people who you perform with, a shared vulnerability in exposing yourself so fully and especially in the early days when none of you have a clue what you’re doing!

The ShipRex: Scott Warren, Amy Bonney, Adam Jacobus, Dinesh Selvamani, Siobhan Hokin, and James Healey.

I moved to Brisbane to join Go1, to help them scale their product practice. What a great business. But, I greatly missed the Melbourne community and then COVID hit which really hindered my ability to connect with people in person.

So after I joined Rex earlier this year, I saw a unique opportunity to bring the event to Brisbane. I knew there were musicians in the company and had every faith that they could pull it off.

The team from all around the business from customer success to engineering leapt at the chance to join in. The catch, two of them had to learn a new instrument in time.

The Rex band line-up

  • Scott Warren, our Head of Engineering, already plays the sax and didgeridoo! But he decided to learn drums.
  • Siobhan Hokin our Engineer played a bit of guitar but decided to learn the bass.
  • Adam Jacobus Front-End Engineer polished off his choir voice and picked up his high school trumpet.
  • Amy Bonney, Customer Success fetched her Sax from the spare room and started warming up her amazing voice.
  • Dinesh Selvamani, Back-End engineer brought his new keyboard, which he’d been playing for about 2 months.
  • James Healey, rocked up with his guitar, ready to jam.

They practiced in our office 2-3 times a week, Scott got some drumming lessons (from my Dad an ex-pro drummer) and they learned the set.

I started the year by challenging myself to learn the drums, something I have always wanted to learn.
— Scott Warren

5 months later…

5 months later, they walked out in front of more than 200 people and performed like legends.

The ShipRex

The crowd went wild for ‘Uptown Funk’ and they nailed the tricky timing on INXS’ ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. As the MC, I have to admit, I got a bit teary. It was a super proud moment for me and the founders of Rexlabs.

The ShipRex: Scott Warren, Amy Bonney, Adam Jacobus, Dinesh Selvamani, Siobhan Hokin, and James Healey.
Through many, many hours of practice, lessons, and band rehearsals, I walked out on that stage with an amazing and talented group of co-workers to perform my first-ever gig. The months of nerves, anxiety and stress at the thought of performing in front of 200 people all went away when I heard all the support from the crowd chanting "SHIPREX".
— Scott Warren

We were joined on stage by equally amazing musicians from Jumbo, FoundU and a combo band from TeachStarter and Caterpillar called Ambient Den.

Jumbo Band

Jumbo’s version of ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem was mad, the lead singer venturing into the crowd and being grabbed by the adoring fans.

The Jumbo Band: Xavier Bergade, Rick Hansen, Graham Keeling, Paul Wright, Ben Leong, Vincent Pio, Jake Thomas, and Liam Cassidy.

FoundU

Then, FoundU came on stage, with a set list that set the night alight! I’ve never seen such a rendition of Rage Against the Machine. The FoundU team were going off and supporting their teammates like a pack of little monsters at a Gaga concert.

FoundU: Bart Easdown, Sam Bleakley, David Johnson, Brendan Dawe, Sam Horne, and Tye Higgins.

Ambient Den

Ambient Den took us home with a beautiful version of ‘Smoke on the Water’, such talented players and they indulged a little backing singing from me.

Ambient Den: Dean Povey, Ben Craven, and Tim Bennets.
I really appreciated too the way all the bands were so supportive of each other's sets
— Dean Povey

And the winner is…

Our winner was chosen by the bar staff, Jumbo really nailed it well done!

Really amazing effort from all the musicians & bands who played - it takes a lot of time, effort & courage to get up on stage and play so well. The crowd clearly loved it!
— James Healey

This year, we’ve donated over $2,000 to our chosen charity the Ukrainian Crisis Appeal. It’s dear to our hearts here at Rex. Our Head of Sales is the President of the Ukrainian Community of Queensland Inc. and we’re so grateful for the work that Peter Bongiorni is doing to continue to raise awareness, drive continued funding and the work he is doing with the government for his home country.

This week, the musicians are floating on clouds, feeling the post-performance glow. Their colleagues feel more connected to each other and their fellow technicians in the wider community. LinkedIn is buzzing with folks sharing some amazing photos and their favourite moments from the night.

Such a fantastic night
Solid Gold👏🤘

I am always amazed by the hidden talents of the people around us and it has been a real joy to bring them together. Next year will be even better! 

Special thanks to Scott Warren who helped organise the whole night, on top of learning the drums and performing - and also to Nigel and James for starting the original Battle of the Bands in Melbourne which inspired the evening. We couldn’t have done it without you.

The Envatones - Melbourne Battle of the Bands 2014

— Article by Layla Foord.

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