Battles of the bands are strange beasts. Bands sometimes lose simply because they aren't as good as one of their competitors. On the other hand, bands win because they are great musicians, interact well with an audience or have a hook: costumes, matching outfits, surprising instrumentation. At the Knitting Factory's Battle of the Bands finals on Feb. 17, each band had at least one trait, but winners Actual Depiction had a little of all of them.
Joined by KBOI TV 2's Tami Tremblay, ex-Channel 7 anchor Ryan Panitz, ex-Boise State football star Alex Guerrero, I watched as four local bands--winnowed down from 60 entrants--played a 45-minute set (about 20 minutes too long) to compete for $500 cash, $500 in recording at Tonic Room Studios, opening spots and 20 pairs of tickets to any show at the Knitting Factory for one year.
Christian pop alt-rockers The Getaway Car opened and set a high bar for the night, with what they admitted was only their fourth show. Frontman Jerry Fee has been around a long time and he definitely knows how to put on a show--the band's musicianship garnered these guys an easy second place.
Things weren't quite so simple for the Uintahs, a Kings Of Leon-esque four-piece. Singer/guitarist Marcus Youngberg seemed unable to hear some of his bandmates and a couple of miscues led to timing missteps, which led to awkward moments. When Youngberg did attempt audience interaction, his soft voice was lost. His vocals, however, were clear and controlled and pretty lovely. A few more shows--and a few less nerves--and these guys are going to be fine additions to Boise's indie music scene.
High-energy Panic-At-The-Disco-esque pop-punkers Stop Drop and Party! are without a doubt one of the most entertaining, high-energy local bands to watch. Their flair--shirts, ties, mullets--and constant connection with the crowd guaranteed that a person doesn't quickly forget them. Though vocals got a little pitchy toward the end, they were impressive and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
Actual Depiction was the big surprise of the night. The six-person band shared nothing in common visually, and looked like kids ready for their spot in the school talent show. But when long-tall frontman Brian "Murdoc" Gordon grabbed the mic, his huge spot-on vocals and the band's tight playing eliminated any suggestions of amateurishness. The addition of DJ Chad Lopez--on keys and a turntable--gave AD an edge that combined everything from metal to melodic rock to hip-hop to reggae. The overtly sexual lyrics in their song "Go Down" had all of us judges standing mouths agape but we didn't deny the addictiveness of the melody and Gordon's powerful presentation. The band plays Grainey's Feb. 25-26.
Regardless of who won (congrats, Actual Depiction) or who lost (sorry, Uintahs) what the battle did was showcase four bands definitely worth keeping an eye on.