Hey guys, it's time for our recap of night 1 of the Rockstar Bar Battle of the Bands Semifinals! Remember, as one of the judges, I will NOT be reviewing the bands individually or revealing individual scores or placement beyond what was said publically last night, just going over and recapping what happened last night. As you may remember, 3 bands gathered to compete for a slot at the finals on April 24th, and since what was previously announced, there are a few new wrinkles for bands to take note of going forward, including a slightly longer set time of a half hour each night, a random draw to determine performance order, and an overall start time of 10:00 PM for the battle itself (though bands do have to arrive at The Rockstar Bar for 9:00 PM.) As will be the case over the next few weeks, bands were judged on originality & stage presence, musicianship, crowd reation, and professionalism, and it was confirmed last night that there will be a wild card band for the finals, ensuring a four band final round on the 24th!
That wild card slot will go to the highest scoring of all of the second place bands, so if you didn't take first last night, don't worry, as there's a chance that you'll be in the finals in three weeks!
Case's Music owner James Case, who pulled triple duty last night by also helping set up each band AND judging, so he deserves extra kudos for how hard he worked last night! After a random draw, the first band to compete was Sarah's Valley, who you may remember were the "mystery" band with almost no public information. So, who are they? Free Beer, more or less! Their lineup featured Free Beer/M.O.B. alumni Christian Lemay on vocals, Dustin Goodall on guitar, Ryan Gray on bass, and Keith Gagnon on drums, and just as a fan, it was great to see them back together for the first time in two years! No word though on why they didn't bring back the Free Beer or M.O.B. names, despite the same lineup and sound. Their set was a mixture of funk rock & ska-punk covers and originals, including Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bloodhound Gang renditions, the latter of which saw a fan from the crowd sing guest vocals!
Christian's energy was present throughout, and though fans weren't crowding the floor, their sound was familiar and well recieved by those in attendance. Apologies for the lack of an updated photo, I didn't snap pictures as I was focused on judging.
Second last night was local alternative rock/grunge quartet Haggith in their first ever local battle appearance, and they put in a set of mostly originals, including "Leon The Janitor", "Living It On The Run", and "Public Enemy", and a more aggressive cover of Cheap Trick's "Reach Out". Their set included some creative flourishes, including singer Curtis McKenzie using a megaphone during "Public Enemy" (a'la early Garden of Bedlam shows), and drummer Mike Haggith wearing a viking helmet for part of their set. Another good crowd reception for them, though they did visibly try to get more activity than there was. The last band was local classic metal quartet Late & Loud, and they had the old school hair metal look in tow for their set, which included original songs like "Heavy Or Bust", "Whisper of the Damned", "Fast As A Bitch", and "Rock N' Roll". They definitely attracted the biggest crowd support of the night, who responded to their energy and classic metal sounds well in their first show in 5 months!
After Late & Loud wrapped up, the judges (me, James, and The Rad Zone's Len Ward) tabulated the scores, and without publicizing them, all I'll say is we were in complete agreement on who finished first, second, and third. With that said, last night's winners, and the first battle finalists are... LATE & LOUD! As a result of their win, Late & Loud are guaranteed a chance to defend their Humane Society Battle title on April 24th in the finals, and this ensures that they'll play live at least one more time prior to frontman Jonathan Tiberi's move to Southern Ontario next month. It's also members Benn Garside & Josh Hatherley's third placement in the final four of a local battle, following their third place run with The Glass Statues at the YMCA Battle in 2009. I won't publically confirm who finished second right now, but it was close between Haggith & Sarah's Valley, and we'll confirm on the 17th which runner up band earned the wild card finals spot, so stay tuned for that, and congratulations to Late & Loud on making it to the finals!
The next night of the battle will take place next Wednesday (April 10th), when The Northern Tragedy, The Pesto Shirts, and The Suicide Kings take the stage to determine the second finalist in this battle, while the other two finalists (either The Bear Hunters, Giwakwa, or Sykotyk Rampage, plus the highest scoring of the three runner up bands) will be determined on April 17th in advance of the finals, so stay tuned to the SMS for previews, recaps, and updates as they roll in, and I hope the turnout and hype only grows as the month rolls along! Thanks to J.D., Martin, James, Carrie, Len, Hayley, and everyone at The Rockstar Bar for everything so far, and I can't wait to work with you guys again next week! As a judge, I didn't get photos of the bands, but I did film each band's first song, so here's (in performance order) Sarah's Valley covering The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Apache Rose Peacock" (complete with a Metallica intro), Haggith covering drummer Mike Haggith's original "Leon The Janitor", and Late & Loud playing "Love Letter Lockdown"!
That's all for today, but stay tuned tomorrow morning for weekend concert previews and perhaps some more news! Thanks everyone, and don't forget, the battle continues next week!