The eponymous Ben of this blog dislikes it if I steal his thunder and write a post right after he writes a post. I reply that this is not right (or write), because musical events need to be covered as soon as they happen.
Last Saturday I played at a talent show at the Texarkana Quadrangle festival. While I was there, I heard about their battle of the bands competition later that day, featuring three bands, Outcry For An Echo, Bridging the Gap, and Jerrod Lee. Not much of a competition, but in Texarkana, you take what you can get.
When I arrived later, (After a dreaded trip to Wal-Mart.), Outcry For an Echo was into their second song. This was odd, as the show was scheduled to start at 6:00 and I arrived at 6:05, and there was no obligatory day.
Bridging the Gap, a Pentecostal rock band, was up next. They began their set with a seventies-esque blues song about being "baptized in a horse-trough in Arkansas", which was pretty classic, and followed it up with the slower "Jesus Name Blues", giving the lead guitarist a chance to show off his considerable skills. They closed their set with a cover of "How Far Is Heaven?" by Los Lonely Boys (What happened to those guys?), hampered only by a weak ending, where the lead guitarist and singer reminded us several times that the song fades out on the album.
During the first two bands, my friends and I noticed that there were several hardcore kids wandering around, odd for a blues show, and this led to the speculation that the Tyrants had come to crash the party. This was confirmed after Bridging the Gap left the stage and the announcer, who talked way too much through the entire thing, introduced hardcore/screamo band Like Tyrants. He also congratulated them on their ability to adapt, telling us how, since there was a wasp nest behind the stage, they all went over to the other side of the backstage. Wow!
Like Tyrants underwent some changes since I had seen them last. They replaced their lead singer/screamer with a full-time screamer, and their bassist changed his hair color from black to brown. The lead guitarist invited everyone, meaning parents and girlfriends, to come close to the stage and cheer them on.
The Tyrants' setlist was essentially the same as their last show. Their new screamer was absolutely wretched. He had no range, his scream sounded like someone throwing up, and he barely had a chance to scream during any of the songs, which seemed to have very little vocalising in them. Halfway through the first song, they went into a breakdown, which makes no sense without a mosh pit. The pitiful Jake Williams, bless his heart, couldn't even keep up with the rest of the band through the breakdowns, or the rest of the songs, for that matter.
The Tyrants began their second song by inviting the audience (read: parents and girlfriends) to clap along, with lead guitarist Nick Wagner remarking that this would be what won them the competition. This song, like all the rest of their songs, lasted about six minutes, and consisted of an endless series of verses and choruses, spiced up with the occasional breakdown. And why do all the bandmembers do this weird running-in-place thing onstage. It does not look cool at all. To give credit where credit is due, Nick Wagner is a talented guitarist, a good singer, and even a good screamer, but he's being held down by unskilled bandmates.
After the eternity of breakdowns that was Like Tyrants' set, Jerrod Lee and his friend got onstage to set up and play us some much needed folk music. Lee had a unique set-up, sitting on a suitcase with two pedals set up, one of which was a drum kick pedal set up to kick the suitcase and the other which activated a tambourine. The soundmen had a mess of trouble setting up the mics for this, and the announcer seemed baffled that anyone would do something that cool.
Once the suitcase percussion had been set up, Jerrod Lee began to croon out some folk-rock. His voice sounds like Gordon Lightfoot, and unsuited to his sparse acoustic music. Electric folk or Bluegrass would suit his voice better. His songs were very much in the American folk genre, mostly about lost love and traveling. One song incorporated the nursery rhyme "Hush little baby, don't say a word/Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird", and then added something about "Mama's gonna buy you a bottle of wine." Weird. Despite his unusual lyrics, and a voice that seemed too powerful for his style, he put on a good show. Who cares if he went fifteen seconds over his allotted time.
The bands had played, and the decision as to who would win was made. The judgment was supposed to made by a "panel of professional musicians", but I noticed one of the judges sported a bleach-blond mullet. My guitar teacher, who is a truly good musician and has no mullet, was on the panel, which was a plus. So I waited for the results. And the winner was.....
Are you kidding me? The three other bands that played weren't exactly the Rolling Stones, but giving the award to a band who can't even stay together during a song, whose screamer sounds like he's gagging, and who were sort of like the Bob Dylan of hardcore-songs that last forever with no variations. Not wanting to have to sit through a seven-song set, or, more likely, two songs stretched out to ten minutes each, I left and went to McDonald's.
Conclusion: The battle of the bands was lackluster. Blues music is like pizza-it's good even when it's not good-but it is a very easy genre to learn, and writing blues songs does not require the same kind of effort as writing indie or alternative songs. The Quadrangle used to be a festival with lots of local bands and interesting stuff, but now it seems past it's prime and ready to die. And why can we not find local bands to play in Texarkana. A few years ago it seemed like there were tons of bands in Texarkana-Olive and Iron, Goesl's Parade, Mute The Misfire. Back when I Love Evelyn was up and running there were local acts like Day In Day Out and Nova who were playing shows. And I'm sure there are tons of teenage kids who would jump at the chance to be the next Ramones. So why are we stuck having to listen to the rhythm-challenged Tyrants?
Currently Listening to: To Plant A Seed, We Came As Romans.
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