M. Lewis Barker
This week Muse Music is hosting its semi-annual Battle of the Bands. Twenty bands are competing for money and studio time. Four bands play each night of the week with the five winners, chosen by audience vote, performing this Saturday for judges. Six bands have already been eliminated. Muse has a difficult time competing against Velour, and this BotB is a perfect opportunity to help support the venue. Each band does its best to bring friends to the show who will vote for them so they can win.
Do you see the problem? From a business standpoint, it’s great for Muse. But from a musician’s shoes, it’s painful. The majority of the bands that perform are new bands without an established fanbase, so only the friends of the performers will go. It becomes nothing more than a “bring the most friends” contest. Sure, on Saturday, actual judges will decide who wins overall, but the bands they choose from may very well not be the pick of the litter. But let me reiterate, it’s great for business because it allows Muse to get hundreds of patrons in only a week.
I complain because my band (Wild Apples) lost last night. Yes, it’s a personal grudge, but it goes much deeper than last night’s show. And now, treat all the rest of that like an intro and now I am going to start…
(These pictures were all shamelessly stolen from Facebook pages.)
First up last night was LUCID 8, a classic rock band. I can’t get into much detail because we weren’t able to see much of the show, but they had a solid rock sound. They seem like guys who have fun with what they do. They’re the kind of band you would expect to see in a bar. They brought a lot of friends and family to the show who voted for them then immediately left (extremely common at all local shows). It was generic, but well played.
Soft Castle played second. Their sound is distinctly Funk Rock, reminiscent of Mark Broussard. One might call them a gimmick band, friends and musicians playing together to have fun. They played a few covers in their set, but the addition of a horn section really brightened up the sound. They were easily the most enjoyable band that I watched last night. Just pure fun. They only brought a few friends to the show, more concerned with having fun than anything else. I wouldn’t mind seeing them in the future.
And now we come to Foxheart, the brainchild of one Chris Wiltsie. I’ll preface this paragraph by saying that Chris is a very friendly and great guy with excellent taste in music. This is the third time I’ve seen him, and each time is an improvement. I first caught him at an open mic night last month, playing solo. The whole night was a rather painful experience. The only act I enjoyed at all was that of Empirates’ Travis White. Wiltsie’s performance, sad to say, did nothing to relieve me. Later I saw him perform with a whole band a few weeks later at Muse. It was much better. But still, it was pretty generic singer/songwriter poprock.
Wiltsie’s music was much better last night with the addiction of Grace LaBass on keyboard. Grace is a friend of mine and very talented singer/musician who plays with Nate Baldwin & the Sound (whose current bassist is my own). She stood out from the rest of the band. All that said, I will paraphrase the words of a friend of mine: “If I pay another five dollars, can I take votes away from them?” They weren’t that bad, but they were still the worst band of the night. And I mean that in terms of musicality, unity, and just the songs themselves. But Foxheart, possibly based on Wiltsie’s friendly personality or the fact that there are like, 8 of them, managed to bring a lot more people than everyone else. I knew we were doomed. They had the most votes before they even performed. They have a cello though so they must be deep as balls.
Once they finished, we hurried to set up and get started. Unfortunately, as quick as we were, Foxheart’s friends were much quicker to leave. We played our brand of punkish indie rock to 20-30 people. Those who actually stayed (which did not include members of LUCID 8 or Soft Castle which is a very awful thing to do when performing) really enjoyed the show. We had a few friends there who had never seen us before and that means a lot to me. Some guy gave me a card for his friend’s recording studio and Wiltsie complimented my playing. Honestly it was one of the best shows we’ve put on in awhile and we had a lot of fun. It’s still far from what I want to ultimately do, musically, but I have no complaints.
Honestly, the whole ordeal wouldn’t bug me as much if the same thing hadn’t happened the night before. Foxheart will be competing against Xan & Chase this Saturday. X&C are a sister and brother who play a genre I can only call “local pop”. Xan is an excellent singer and Chase is a great guitarist, and they are backed by competent musicians. But they completely lack any melody which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t trying their damndest to be a pop/rock band. To be fair to them, I already hate that sort of music, but they do absolutely nothing to change my opinion of it. While I only managed to catch the end of Ghost in a Jar’s set, but it was very good and did something different than many bands. They had few votes. X&C were far from the best band that night, but they’ll be in the finals this Saturday.
Foxheart has a lot of potential. An electric guitar might help because face it, they’re not Ferocious Oaks. But you can bet your first born that I won’t be attending the finals this Saturday.