Without much fanfare, the 2014 version of the Preservation Pub/Scruffy City Hall Band Eat Band Contest is steamrolling toward the semi-final rounds, to be held in SCH come May. And when I say “without much fanfare,” think of it as my gentle little way of boxing your collective ears, rousing you from your drooling slumber, and reminding you to pay some f@#$ing attention in class!…
Because there have been some less than shall-we-say-stalwart nights, thus far, in terms of attendance and audience participation at this year’s B.E.B. And while there have been a few lackluster moments in the competition itself, there have also been so many moments to celebrate. The latter fact, as well as an infusion of new talent from the contest having been opened to regional performers, will in all probability bring us to a final round even more exciting and diverse than last year’s.
And in case you missed it, last year’s August B.E.B. finale made for some damn fine entertainment, even with the Gods of No-Fun trying to sabotage everything by pelting us with shit weather intermittently throughout the day-long affair on the Market Square stage. F@#$ers. Just let ‘em try and pull that one again this year, and we’ll simply move the whole show inside to Scruffy City Hall…
On second thought, scratch that last remark. It is never a good idea to play Chicken with the Gods. History is littered with the ruined lives of reckless fools who spat in the eye of divinity, and lived just long enough to regret it—Lucifer Morningstar and Jonah and Prometheus, to name just a few.
The point is, we are ready, Jake. And this year’s finale will not be denied, nor diminished. And though we don’t yet know who the championship round participants will be, we have a nearly full roster of candidates.
And it is no surprise that that roster includes 2013 B.E.B. finalists the Crumbsnatchers. The pride of Lenoir City won their first-round heat sounding, if at all possible, even tighter and more explosive than they did last year. Their particular brand of crunchy, loopy indie rock continues to be a crowd favorite.
That they won their first-round matchup in 2014 is all the more impressive for the fact that they edged out surprising, and relatively new, contenders Sidecar Symposium. Purveyors of cheeky, well-crafted cabaret pop, Sidecar had played local stages occasionally, if irregularly, in the past. But their performance in B.E.B. this time so impressed that the judges awarded them a rare on-the-spot wildcard bid into the semis, tho they had lost the night to the Crumbsnatchers’ fearsome tour-de-force.
Also receiving a night-of wildcard was tri-cities outfit 100 Acres. An unknown quantity hereabouts, the Acres brought a throwback brand of country and honky-tonk to the Pub stage, earning instant kudos and a pass to round two in spite of their loss to local neo-traditionalists Dixieghost.
And if you have any affinity for old-time country and mountain music, and you haven’t yet seen Dixieghost, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Their eerily on-point backwoods harmonies and string-centric instrumental virtuosity guarantee they will contend for top honors before it’s all said and thru.
On another, distant sector of the musical spectrum are fellow first-round winners The Theorizt. For diversity’s sake, it’s good to have a band of hip-hop vets thrown into the B.E.B. mix this time around. And for quality’s sake, it’s even better to have one as talented and scintillating as the freestyle juggernaut of J-Bush, Courageous and Black Atticus, backed by a blistering dual-guitar attack.
And speaking of guee-tar, did someone say Justin Kalk Orchestra? A Nashville-based power trio, the JKO are also on the B.E.B. semifinal radar. If you’re a fan of serious six-string wizardry, google Kalk and co., and prepare to be amazed.
As of this writing, there are yet two weeks left in the first round of contests, with the final pairing of round one taking place on April 29, with 2013 semifinalists Far Far Away squaring off against another relative newcomer in the Marina Orchestra.
FFA play polished, soaring, arena-ready Rawk, heroic vocals over big guitars that manage to sound classic and contemporary at the same time. Marina, on the other hand, meld Afro-centric flavorings with throwback college-radio eccentricities—smatterings of the B-52s, hints of Talking Heads—buoyed by a lush undercurrent of girl-group harmony. If you can only go to one B.E.B. show this year—other than the finale, of course—that FFA/Marina O. mix-up on April 29 is your bestest choice.
And the fact that there are as many as two wildcard bids still open for the semifinals means that everything is still in play, for everyone. We still believe in miracles here at the Preservation Pub/Scruffy City Hall Second Annual Knoxville Band Eat Band Contest; it’s a magical kind of place, where even losers can still win.
Or, they can bollocks it all up and hit the dumper again. But that’s out of our hands. Just remember, Jake, that the best thing anyone can ever give you is a second chance. It’s up to you to grab that f@#$er by the throat and run like hell for daylight