Saturday February 1, The Underground in Cincinnati held the finale for the 2013 Battle of the Bands featuring The Monument, The Dugongs, War of Change and Self-ish. Each band was one of 30 to enter and wage musical war on stage to earn the grand prize, a check for $3000 and a UG Studios recording session at All These Sounds www.atsounds.com and/or a live concert recording plus a Buddy Rogers Music gift card. Second prize was $1000, a UG Studios single recording session and Buddy Rogers Music gift card. Third was $500 and BRM gift card with fourth receiving $250 and gift card. As the votes were counted there was a special performance by last year’s winner Boy Meets World www.boymeetsworldmusic.com, with one member also on the judges panel. The show was also streamed on the The Underground www.theug.com website and the people showed up in loud, screaming support.
Bands were critiqued by a panel of five judges, including Luke Meyers & Jeff Roberts of Jeff Roberts & Associates celebrating 28 years of representing Christian artists. Matt Roberts has over a decade in the music business representing Skillet and Disciple among others. Kevin Castleman of Creative Artists Agency represents many of the most successful film, TV, music, game, theater, internet professionals and CAA also represents over 700 top athletes in football, baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis and golf. Castleman also represents TobyMac, David Crowder, and Third Day among others. The event was sponsored by Access Audio and Buddy Rogers Music www.buddyrogers.com and UG Studios with venue sponsorship by JTM, KeyBank, Home City Ice, LaRosas, Ohio Christian University and Cincinnati Bell. A short promo video was shown before each performance as well with band members discussing the journey, trial and tribulations of getting to the finals and why they make and play music.
Other participating bands included All the Above, Automagik, Big Bird Addicts, Blue Society, Building Bridges, Cobalt Ablaze, David Joshua, Disciples of the Fallen, D5, Emmanuel Carr, Endless Chaos, Fret 23, The Ghoonies, Hardrada, Headless Moose, Kaitlyn Peace, Lauren Paschal, Love Like Violence, More Likely Than A Shark Attack, Munchlaxx, Pseudoname, Radio Rescue, Samuel Day, Scarlet Raven, Setback, The Skyline Social, The Weekend Classic.
New Lebanon’s The Monument is a group of good friends who are extremely passionate about writing and performing the music they love. Since forming as a three piece in October 2010 they’ve undergone some changes making them who they are today. With a goal to reach out to people with their music and inspire them to do what they love, The Monument couldn’t imagine doing anything else with their lives, expect big things.
Singer/guitarist Ryan Green opened up shaking a mean tambourine, playing What Happened to US among other very carefully practiced tunes. The judges commended them on their overall energy and it was clear they liked each other. Props went to thanking the sound guy. Bassist Levi was pegged as the intense one as Green was commended for his range and nailing the falsetto and their well-placed song organization. More effects on vocals was advised and they were the best band ‘so far’. Having drums on the floor and not on the raiser was a nice touch.
“We worked extremely hard at every aspect of the competition. From practicing our set for countless hours to making phone calls and meeting with people we didn’t even really know to selling presale tickets. It just took getting out of our comfort zone a little bit. I don’t think anything great can be accomplished within your comfort zone. I think what made a difference was making ourselves stand out in a scene that is mostly made up of the same 3 styles of music.”
Next up from Aura, Indiana The Dugongs with a slightly dirty rock n roll bluesy sound mixed with Porno for Pyros and Foo Fighters. They play a style of music that’s been popular long before they were around. Vocalist Lucky New sports a very becoming Harry Connick Jr. motif. Formed in 2011 with original lineup still intact they’ve released one full-length record Dave’s Basement and an EP in 2012. Along with performances at the 86 Club and Mad Frog they have a YouTube video for My Lady Lydia.
The Prowl, Surf City, My Lady Lydia, No Lemon No Melon, Lot Lizard and Lady in Red come at you with a young rock n roll strut and stroll. Formed in school as a three piece under a different name adding singer Lucky New and bassist Noah Moses renamed The Dugongs from then on they started covering their favorite band’s songs like the Black Keys, Manchester Orchestra and David Bowie. Once they got a feel for each other’s style they quickly wrote around twelve songs worth of original music, released on “Dave’s Basement”, recorded in Moses’ dad’s basement. They hope to have a new CD come out within the first half of the year. Drawing influence from local bands from the past and present, they greatly admire Foxy Shazam and their live performance. They love writing and playing original music to anyone and everyone. Challenges, obstacles and setbacks only force them to get better at writing and performing. There’s no stop sign on the road they’re on.
Judges enjoyed their Zepplin meets White Stripes sound. They were encouraged to do things as a band without choreography and add more hooks to the songs. They were impressed with such a hard rock sound for young kids.
“To get to the finals you have to stand out from all of the other bands. We realized that to have everyone’s attention you have to have as much fun as you possibly can. We seriously enjoy playing our music so much it’s hard not to get into it. If you want the attention you have to earn it. Performing is what we do best. Also we couldn’t have done it without our friends, fans and family. You’re following is the most important part and to try and make everyone there remember you. Doing things like this helped us out tremendously. We met so many nice and genuine people through these events and I would tell anyone to enter the battle.”
Next were Dayton reps War of Change bringing a bit of volume and metal to the building. They warmed up the crowd with a short version of Sunday Bloody Sunday on sound-check. The war started with the Queensryche’esque flag waving high and proud. Vocalist John Baxter handed it off to a front line soldier to hold up to the heavens, This Means War. Our Allegiance was dedicated to Cincinnati’s finest, cops everywhere, soldiers and all life-saving healthcare practitioner’s for keeping us safe. Next song’s a bit Hard to Swallow dealing with all forms of addiction as Baxter proclaimed a 3yr, 3 month, 11 day freedom from heroin. They go acoustic for the rock star 80’s ballad part of the show with an open Letter, then get serious as words are like weapons. They end with The Undertaken, a Warriors Creed.
Judges weren’t sure whether to love them or fear them. They definitely looked the part with the face paint and knew their audience, stepping outside the genre to be bold. They wanted even more breakdowns and solos and thought Hard to Swallow was the best with the personal testimony. Not so much talking between songs but they’re extremely good at what they do. They liked Pillar’s Noah Henson’s dreadlock tribute to Shadows Fall singer Brian Fair.
“To say the least it was a long process over the course of five months and then some. We never anticipated we would make it to the Final Round. We just thought what a great way to get our name out there and into a venue that books a lot of bands in the Christian Music Genre. It was however a stressful process given working on our E.P, making trips to Nashville regularly and of course the everyday real world stuff like jobs, kids and relationships. The biggest win was to have all of our Church Family Support from F.H.M.C.C and my beautiful Mother who’s not a believer at the show …. I pray she saw the light.”
Self-ish started with a surprise double-switch from punk to metal-core. Starting out with Where Did You Go then going Ska, with… the Ska-Song inspiring an old-school bounce pit. Just a Game included a bass solo and a ‘safe’ wall of death, Sorry for the Inconvenience. They dedicated Bro Hym by Pennywise to a fallen friend taken in a hit and run, which brought out the lighters, changing to IPhone lights.
Judges asked for less perky banter and more variety. Daily song writing is healthy, more productive and keeps the creative juices flowing. They enjoyed the ‘safe’ wall of death.
Boys Meets World, winners of last year’s battle played a closing set while the votes were counted. Bringing their high energy pop-rock sound to tunes Rest of Our Days and Humble Pie, everybody needs a slice, right.
Vocalist Craig Sulken “We find inspiration knowing that we have a chance to help somebody better their life through our music and band.” Its ties to their home and each other that have helped turn their dream into reality.
Bound together by brotherhood, twins Craig and Ryan Sulken, and older brother Brad Sulken were born with the musical itch to become rock stars at a young age. Playing a variety of instruments in their early years and experiencing the rush of being onstage was enough to hook them for life. After pursuing separate careers in other bands, they knew they were stronger together than apart. Formed in 2012, they won first place in their first year and released their debut “Do What’s Best For You,” and secured a spot on Cincinnati’s Van’s Warped Tour in summer 2013.
After much deliberation, votes and Twittering the bands were all brought up on stage for their really big checks. Self-ish won $250, The Dugongs $500 and because the voting was so close the winner was decided by a tie breaker with War of Change receiving $1000 and The Monument pulling out the win for $5000. Congratulations to the finalists and all bands that participated.
One of the challenges The Underground faces as a venue is to not scare off potential patrons because of their faith based organization. They want and encourage a safe environment for all who attend and a place where parents can feel safe letting their teenagers hang out. They enforce a simple code of conduct for patrons and performers. No profanity or stage diving, respectable attire and no preaching from the stage. Besides weekly local shows and national acts, they offer opportunities for teens to get involved with media programs through UG TV (the live stream of the events) film camps in the summer, band development utilizing the facility to teach bands all facets of performance, musicianship, and being better band-mates. Their goal is to be more than just a “sweet gig” for bands and all groups are welcome. The battle is a big event and has the feel of a national show as well as an opportunity for the bands to showcase their skills for the talent agents from Nashville and win some big money.