Round 2, February 10, 2016.
As a judge, I try very hard to be fair. There are styles of music I love, and styles I absolutely loathe, but my personal opinion is just that: Personal.
Professionally, I view the bands within the context of their genre, their originality, a fresh take on an established style-- pop, metal, whatever-- something that makes them unique to themselves. Or as we in the Biz say: They have "It".

 

Competitions like the Winter Rock Challenge are about giving bands who have potential a chance to stand out and be noticed. It has NOTHING to do with being the 'best band'.
Tonight the variety of styles alone precluded any one band being the best band. Ultimately, they are not competing with other bands, they are competing with themselves.
People get mad when bands who pack the house are favored over a band that might have more musical ability, but packing the house matters. AC/DC might be simple and basic rock chops, but they fucking pack the house.
We're not there to judge who is the most accomplished musician with the best skill set. I'm way less interested in Steve Howe than Kurt Cobain. I'm looking for songs, not scales.
Yes, it is in essence a popularity contest, and winning is great, but just being there counts as well. I saw three bands tonight that I feel have potential to grow. I intend to give them press, regardless of whether or not they win.
My Top 3
3: Morning After. As soon as Katie said, "I knew you'd like them. They remind me of Tool", I knew Morning After was fucked. Tool is not a 'popular' band. They are like licorice or sardines-- an acquired taste. But if you like sardines it doesn't matter if they're popular or not. In fact, Tool fans get off on the notion they are in an exclusive club, if you will. I felt that way about Morning After. I'd have fun producing their album.
But they didn't win on my ballot, because they didn't win the crowd. They made some mistakes in their presentation and because they opened the show, it was especially critical they explode from the word, 'go'. They didn't. Opening slot is tough.
First mistake was starting with, "How are you doing? We're happy to be here... blah blah blah."
Wrong.
Example
Led Zeppelin, Opening of Song Remains the Same: 'Rock and Roll" into "Celebration Day" (Two super high energy, in your face songs) and THEN Robert Plant says, "Good Evening".
Their second strike was their energy level dropped off after the third song. Instead of building to an epic close, they just sort of trailed away. It is my impression that they didn't push themselves as I think they could, because imo they are a good band. More time together and a bit more "fuck you" attitude is my prescription.
Fortunately, there was no 3rd strike, so we'll call it a double to right field. They're on base.
2: Special Reserve had the misfortune of going 6th, but they held their own well. The problem for them was, they had to do something really impressive as the judges had already sat through five bands. They were polished and professional, but they didn't quite have a home run. Call it a double with a steal to third base.
1: Horus Maze was the slugger of the night. They bitch-slapped the crowd awake and never let up. All the members were proficient musicians individually, and the rhythm section was tight and groovy, but it was the two guitar attack that really got my attention. The considerable talent of their lead vocalist pretty much iced the cake for me.
Home Run on my ballot.
That said, should they make it to the finals, they need to take it to the next level. I believe they can.
Hats off to all the bands, but there's my top 3.
 
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Category: Soundcheck