Every spring several band competitions and contests seem to pop up in certain venues -- some more serious and competitive than others. This season, two major "battle of the bands" events are set to rock out -- I'll be at both in one way or another.
The College of Charleston's fifth annual Charleston Battle of the Bands Competition -- sponsored by CofC's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) -- returns to the Music Farm on Thurs. March 29 with five bands and a mess of judges. The finalists, each chosen from a stack of collected entries by the PRSSA staff and their advisors, include (in order of appearance) four Charleston-based bands -- Ahoy, Matey!, Fareview, Jon Blalock, and The Fire Apes -- and a Norfolk, Va.-based group called Still Pink.
The College's PRSSA chapter is part of the CofC's Dept. of Communication, which sponsors outreach and educational activities for its 800-plus majors, and maintains a strong community focus. All proceeds from this week's event will benefit the PRSSA chapter.
Last year, five local acts -- ACE & O.C., The Tyler Pull Dolls, Stellar Door, Firework Show, and Golden Palace -- did their thing in front of surprisingly large turnout. The panel of "celebrity judges," included me, 98X DJ Amy Hutto (host of weekly local music show "Local X"), musician Hank Futch (the bassist of the Blue Dogs), and musician and CofC music appreciation teacher Stanfield Gray (of local band Grayman). Smart-aleck 98X afternoon disc jockey Potter introduced the band and emceed the proceedings (and almost pronounced my name correctly). Many beers were ingested, many notes were played, and several hot debates at the judges' table were resolved. Firework Show took the top spot.
Once again this year, each act will perform a brief set in front of the audience and a panel of local "celebrity judges," which include Atlantic Records rep Alison O'Connell, 98X's Amy Hutto, 95SX's Special Ed, Stanfield Gray ... and yours truly. All judges will work from the CofC's scoring system based on "stage presence," "vocal strength," "instrumental skill," "crowd interaction," and "originality." Max Watt of 96 Wave is set to emcee the night.
The winning band will receive $300 from PRSSA, studio recording time from Fusion Five, and an opportunity to open for the Atlantic Music Collective concert on April 7 at the Music Farm.
Longtime booking agent, soundman, and local musician Stuart "All Night" Johnson arranged a month's worth of "March Madness Battle of the Bands" rounds at A Dough Re Mi last spring. Co-sponsored by Budweiser, the rounds went well, with a wild variety of mostly metal, punk, and indie-rock acts belting it out in front of staffers and guests who judged their "stage presence, musicianship, audience reaction, and professionalism."
This year, Johnson put the lineup of the second "March Madness" on the Village Tavern stage every weekend in March. Cash prizes, studio time, gift certificates, and club bookings are to be awarded to the finalists in mid-April.
"The winners in each round so far created an energy level that they were able to sustain throughout their entire set," says Johnson. "Judging this battle has been hard because every band has played very well. For the finals, the judges will be observing the crowd response. Bands: make sure you promote hard so you get all your people out to make some noise."
The final round, featuring four local acts -- Smoky Weiner & The Hot Links, Roosevelt (my band!), Hot Saki, and Dirt Gypsy -- takes place this Fri. March 30. (I'm rootin' for Smoky).
The Charleston Battle of the Bands takes place on Thurs. March 29 at the Music Farm at 32 Ann Street. Tickets are $5 in advance and $8 at the door, and are available at www.cofc.edu/communication, at Millennium Music, or at the CofC's Dept. of Communication office at 5 College Way. Call 853-3276 or check www.musicfarm.com for more.
The March Madness Battle of the Bands presents its final preliminary round on Fri. March 30 at 9 p.m. at the Village Tavern at 1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. Cover is $5. See www.village-tavern.com for more.