First off, the quality level of last night was much higher than most of last year’s. As Ben says that it was perhaps the weakest night on the schedule, things are looking good.
The first band of the night was My Funeral, who were straight-up rock. I think Punk side, but I’ll allow for the argument that they’re alot like early Metallica (the poses and look of their lead singer are certainly remiscent of Metallica). These guys really suffered from a lack of stage presence: they spent their entire set watching themselves play, and for the lead singer, hiding behind his hair. They were driven by their bassist, a lefty who kicked it out with some excellent bass lines. Partnered with some rock-god guitar work and shouted lyrics, they rocked out, without pretense. I’ve been on something of a garage/(old-school) punk rock kick of late, and these guys, while clearly needing some work, fit into the category.
Next up (and I think that the second band has the least enviable time slot – immediately after the first, and with Jokes For Beer separating them from the third band, a long way from the end of the night) was A Virgin in Hollywood. The best thing about them is that they looked like they were having a blast on stage. Their lead guitarist, a kindof Shaggy (of Scooby-Doo) look alike, bounced around manically, while keeping up with some fine guitar work. The drummer, equally manic, really drove their sound, pounding away back there. They are fronted by a female bassist, who, it must be said, didn’t quite cut it for me. It started poorly – the first song they sang, called ‘One Wish’ (or something similar), was standard rock. Unfortunately, the singer chose to emulate Gwen Stefani as closely as possible. Had this been consistent, I would’ve marked it up as having the misfortune of sounding just like her. However, on most of the subsequent songs, her voice (while similar), was distinctive in its own right. But all told, they were really quite generic, not terribly tight and to get a better grade from me, would probably need some retooling – perhaps featuring the lead guitar more strongly, a change of singer, something along those lines.
The third band of the night, Human Hi-lite Reel, were of a completely different category. I really had trouble figuring them out. They were jazzy, humorous and ironic (I believe that I wrote something like ‘endearingly Ben Folds Five-like). A three piece, consisting of pared-down drums, bass (sometimes guitar) and organ (along with keyboards and a mixer). They played wierd, off-kilter songs, were loose, clearly comfortable with each other (the difference between the level and quality of their on-stage communication and the other two bands was immense). However, I was never quite sure whether they were a drawn-out joke or really just a wacky band. I did quite enjoy them, although the tonal range played on the organ was fairly small, which began to irk me by the end of their set. The singer (and organist) was ‘an everybody’s best friend’ type of guy, all self-deprecating, with a cute habit, of holding up both hands after each song, saying ‘thank you very much’.
It was a toss up for me who to vote for between My Funeral & Human Hi-Lite Reel, but in the end, I cast a vote for My Funeral, because of the lack of pretense (which matches my own current rock kick), and because I think I could quickly get irritated by Human Hi-Lite Reel if the schtick continued in the same vein.
However, the other judges differed, and Human Hi-Lite Reel won, moving on to the next round.
Next week’s trio sounds excellent on the website, so I’m pretty stoked for it. So if you missed last night, be sure not to miss next week’s.