By Zach Collier
The Boardwalk is crafting something really special. Lovingly dubbed The Shark (Fin)ale, this climax to their week long Battle of the Bands featured all four winners from the previous nights plus some delightful food trucks. The sense of community was palpable. This was the first night in the history of The Boardwalk that completely sold out.
It was also simply a fantastic show, with 3 bands tying for second place and one band winning by a half point because one judge decided to get fancy and award half points instead of whole points like us normal judges. I’m not going to name names here, but you know who you are, Thomas.
Joking aside, when the show began it was standing room only. The loading bay door was opened to let people breathe, and the sunset spilled over the west hills, across Utah Lake, and into the venue as Sage Lane took the stage. Their song “Penny Board” ROCKED. Great breakdowns, shimmery tones, and locked in rhythms. They had a quirkily unhinged vocal performance. Their song “Clementine” got people singing along to the “ohs” in the chorus. This band knows how to craft exciting live moments, and their slowest song of the night still grooved and had an excellent, unexpected whistle solo. Their closing song was a tom driven, polyrhythmic jam in the vein of Temper Trap. I loved it. Sage Lane is a local band to watch.
Pop punk’s not dead, dudes. It’s very much alive, and it’s been made flesh in the form of Aurhe lead singer Ava Stone. Ava is a h*ckin badass. She looks comfortable on stage in an approachable, warm way. But man can she rock. I can’t think of a better front woman in the scene right now.
Just like Sage lane, Aurhe writes fantastic moments, too. Their second song had some WILD fills and furious tom work, plus a great non-forced/gimmicky sing along with the crowd. Their third song was reminiscent of The Wonder Years, with thrilling tonal shifts that moved from light and anthemic to HEAVY.
“Love Song” really showcased Ava’s vocals. Such control and balance. It was smoky as h*ck. She also had a great guitar solo, which showed off her instrumental chops. Rhythmically, Aurhe wasn’t as tight as the other bands, but they also had the single greatest vocal performance of the entire week.
New American Gothic
First thing’s first: this is such a sick band name.
Second things second: they need to record their opening number ASAP. New American Gothic is locked in and original. Sage Lane is quintessential Provo pop rock (in the best way), Aurhe gives off pop punk throwback vibes. But New American Gothic is thrillingly weird. Great, innovative rhythms; really intricate guitar work that treated the delay pedal like its own instrument; a bassist and drummer that kept the band glued together despite all the craziness; and a talented, ethereal mezzo vocalist that’s the prog rock amalgamation of Little Moon, 26fix, and Jane Beeson (I will die on that hill).
They were also the only band of the night that truly understood that a captivating set isn’t just playing songs in a row. They had composed transitions, they connected songs, and they paused and talked to the band for emotional connection only when it made sense.
Unfortunately they were plagued by feedback the whole set. If I recall correctly, the first half was due to a faulty patch cable in a pedal board. The second half was house feedback and wasn’t their fault. Despite this, their third song (which also needs to be recorded pronto) got people jumping and stank facing on the bass groove alone. Mitch Tousley was a huge fan of this song’s synth, and I totally understand why. Below is their only song on Spotify. It’s a good song, but it doesn’t represent what I heard tonight, which was diverse and expansive and incredibly original.
Parade The Bug
Rounding out the night was Parade The Bug – a band that’s only been gigging for 4 months and is killing it. These guys are the sonic representation of chaotic good. They give off the vibe of a bunch of dudes who are best friends and just happen to like (and be good at) making weird rock music.
Their opening song was brand new, and its extended intro gave me as much joy as the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song. Many readers won’t fully understand how much I love that theme song, so suffice it to say that it’s high praise.
Parade the Bug is for people who love Aquabats, DEVO, Gwar, Tenacious D, They Might Be Giants, etc. Their music is about krakens, gnomes, magic deserts, and other wild and exotic stuff. It’s bizarre, and you feel like you should hate it. But their music is actually well written, intricate, and so fun. It’s kitschy, and they know it and love it. They wear matching jumpsuits. They jump on top of their amps. Their hair flies everywhere. They are legends. The crowd knows it and moshes accordingly. I want these guys to lean in to all the weirdness and throw the wildest, kookiest party concerts imaginable. They could be a force to be reckoned with and could easily become local authority figures in this genre.
Their keyboard player had a great synth solo between song 1 and 2. As a synth player myself, I really appreciated how well delivered and quirky it was. He knows his job and does it well. Those pitch bends were beautiful.
After Parade the Bug, the crowd vote was held. Parade the Bug was awarded 5 bonus points, Sage Lane 3, and New American Gothic 1. Us judges disappeared back stage to deliberate.
It’s here that I’d like to remind a certain unnamed judge that we were supposed to rate bands out of 5, and awarding half points technically means you rated bands out of 10. Speaking of Thomas and numbers, his band Just Khakis was last year’s Boardwalk Battle of the Bands winner and they recently dropped a h*ckin bop about numbers and you should stream it. It’s unreasonably good. But I digress.
Each judge had a favorite band as their winner, so we had to tally our total points to sort that out. Parade the Bug would’ve won the entire thing thanks to that crowd vote, but they went over their set length and lost 4 points, tying them with Sage Lane and Aurhe (who didn’t get any crowd points but held her own regardless).
We delivered our results to venue owner Brian Cabello. He took the stage with The Boardwalk’s Championship Belt, opened the results envelope, and crowned New American Gothic the winner by a half point. The band won 10 hours of studio time, $500, band a guitar from Baldwin Guitars. What a crazy night. I look forward to the next Battle of the Bands.
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