Dick Hodgin would make a revolutionary politician. After all, the locally legendary producer and manager for Cravin’ Melon, Hootie & The Blowfish and Corrosion of Conformity has the flair that many modern politicians conspicuously lack. He’s zealous, opinionated and informed, full of personal anecdotes about the place you’re from, the places you’ve been or the people you’ve met. In his way, Dick has seen it all–from the explosion of bands he recorded in their infancy to the implosion of bands he championed, chided and cheered. He’s seasoned, but he ain’t tired. On Friday afternoon in the Williams Center at Duke University, Dick demonstrated that inveterate charisma for about 30 wide-eyed college bandmates, delineating the cold, calculated, bottom-line driven formulaic of the music industry as it now stands. He likened a band to a donut, telling the students that they now had two options: Either make a donut so good that it could become its own franchise with its own stores and employees, or make a donut that a large chain of stores would feel confident selling.

Lincoln Theatre co-owner Mark Thompson confirmed most of Dick’s ideas on the nature of the record industry and the likelihood that bands stand to make money. I, of course, had the opportunity to advocate the current opportunity that bands stand to make money by being creative and defiantly original. After all, if these bands want to open their own donut franchise, it is essential to realize that there are too many American Hi-Fi and John Mayer proteges trying to morph into donuts fit for sale in our local Food Lions. Success, I asserted, could come through tasting different, not simply by tasting “comfortable.”

We all agreed, though, that when a band was great and capable of “catching on,” there was almost always a certain recognizable yet non-pedagogical and indescribable “Damn!” factor involved in the songs.

Later that night, Independent Arts Editor olufunke moses joined us to judge the first pre-rivalry Saturday Battle of the Bands between Duke and UNC. We heard that indescribable “Damn!” just three bands into the evening, and it stood unrivaled through the remaining three hours of music.

The Pulsar Triyo–led by pianist and electronics wizard Pulsar Li, whiz bassist Zach Kilgore and drummer Eric Bishop–bled a cover of Britney Spear’s “Toxic,” turning the seductive melody into a plaything full of dynamics and big Keith Jarret ivory chunks. A stunning original and a sweeping cover of Radiohead’s “Where I End and You Begin” left no question: These guys were the winners before the rest of the bands took the stage.

And that’s because, when magic happens, it’s just impossible to beat.