Wow! Last night was absolutely one of the best Musicians Showcase finals ever. It was a packed house, and seriously, every band brought it last night, from Fayetteville's Terminus and Damn Arkansan, to Little Rock's The Stephen Neeper Band and The Revolutioners and Russellville's The Sound of the Mountain.
But of course, there can be only one winner, and The Sound of the Mountain took the top honors. I know it was a tough choice for the judges.
Kudos to all of the bands, the judges, everyone who came out to the shows and, of course, our sponsors and hosts Stickyz and Revolution.
That's right folks. Tonight at Revolution starting at 9 p.m., it's the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase finals.
Which band will come out on top?
Will it be Fayetteville prog-metal trio Terminus? Or their cross-town rivals (not really), Fayetteville folk-rockers Damn Arkansan? Or will The Stephen Neeper Band take the top honors? Or The Revolutioners? Or will it be Russellville's The Sound of the Mountain?
Find out tonight.
Also, be sure to enter our giveaway for summer music festival passes. We'll be drawing names throughout the night for passes to Wakarusa, Thunder on the Mountain and Bonnaroo. You have to be there in order to win. Wouldn't it be lame if you decided not to go and your name got called and all your friends were like, "Dude! They called your name but you weren't there so they drew another name!"
It's gonna be a really good time, so come on out and say hi.
Russellville's The Sound of the Mountain won Round 5 of the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase with swirling instrumental post-rock that was by turns powerful, loud, dynamic and sweepingly cinematic. That last description is especially apt, as more than one judged referenced movies on their score sheets.
Also: it never hurts when your drummer is a stone-cold badass, as is the case with Sound of the Mountain. But it was excellent musicianship all the way around.
Showcase judge Mandy McBryde wrote, "Their music evokes such emotion. It's like watching a masterpiece fly through the room in soundwaves, or that scene in a really great movie when you go 'Oh shit. This is what's really happening.'"
Judge CT wrote, "Total pros. They have their shit together. Sweet tones and awesome transitions. This needs to be the musical score to my life." Guest judge Eugene Whitmore wrote, "I like the intro, well-rehearsed, very spontaneous."
Grayson Shelton wrote "I'm a sucker for a great drummer. They're the heartbeat and energy of your show. I can imagine it's tough to keep a completely instrumental set moving and engaging. They did a great job with dynamics to keep it fresh and keep my attention."
More photos and a video are after the jump.
Closing out the semifinals of the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase was Collin vs. Adam, now a trio, after the tragic death of bassist Mason Mauldin in January.
The founding duo of Adam Hogg and Collin Buchanan clearly have a vision, with their hybrid of hypnotic post-punk and synth-pop. Drummer Mike Motley is practically a human metronome. No fewer than three other people used that exact term to describe him while watching the band's set. That rhythmic precision proved to be a critical component.
Showcase judge Grayson Shelton wrote, "Great vocals, great sound." CT wrote "Mike Motley is a goddamn metronome. This band rules! Amazing song quality, tough-as-nails guitar riffs."
Guest judge Eugene Whitmore wrote, "high energy, but need to reduce the transition time between songs," while Mandy McBryde wrote, "Adam Hogg is one of the most unassuming rock stars I've ever seen. These songs are so good — they take you somewhere."
Little Rock trio The Midnight Thrills brought some Southern-rockin' soul to the Showcase, boasting an incredibly full sound that would be the envy of any number of bands, but especially considering that there's just the three of them up there. You might recognize guitarist/singer Drew DeFrance as he also plays guitar in The Stephen Neeper Band, who'll be in the finals Friday, March 1 at Revolution.
In my chicken-scratch notes from Thursday evening, I wrote: "Replacements x Neil Young & Crazy Horse = The Midnight Thrills." I'd probably had a couple beers at that point, but I think that still holds up pretty well.
Showcase judge CT wrote, "Very tight — rhythm section had it on lockdown! Nothing better than a solid three-piece band." Mandy McBryde wrote "Man this guy can play guitar... Holy smokes!"
Grayson Shelton wrote "Drew really does a standout job with Stephen Neeper Band and I really like what he brings to them. It's good to hear him out in the front. Good tone and a solid, solid lead guy in his own right." Guest judge Eugene Whitmore wrote simply "Great guitarist!!"
Check out more photos and a video after the jump.
North Little Rock quintet Knox Hamilton anchored the middle spot of the Showcase with impressive vocal harmonies and sunshine-y, even danceable, indie pop.
Judge Mandy McBryde wrote, "They're both spiritual and secular in a very new way." Grayson Shelton wrote, "Really great, catchy indie pop songs. A band that you can take home to your mother, but still seal the deal with your girlfriend. Really good vocals."
Guest judge Eugene Whitmore wrote, "Nice sound, but needs a little practice," while CT wrote, "Amen North Little Rock. Very nice songs, awesome melodies."
After the jump, more photos and a video.
Up first at Round 5 of the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase was Fayetteville's Bartin Memberg, a.k.a. Martin Bemberg, formerly of The Memphis Pencils and presently an incredibly prolific solo artist.
Bemberg had a bit of trouble at first getting his whole laptop/guitar/pedals/what-have-you setup set up. But once he did, he performed some challenging, weird pop, with a Young Marble Giants feel, what with the sparse sound and pinging percussion.
Showcase judge CT wrote, that the set "started off roughly, when it took off it got better. Nice songs." The guest judge this week was Eugene Whitmore, a record producer and recording engineer who owns Genetics Studio in Little Rock. Whitmore wrote, "Not bad tone, but tech difficulties."
Grayson Shelton wrote, "I enjoy his songs, but I think I would enjoy them more if he would put a band together instead of the samples." He also noted Bemberg's "Bowie-esque delivery." Judge Mandy McBryde wrote, "Interesting sampling of "Auld Lang Syne" in the first song, especially since the celebratory hymn we all know so well is based on a poem about life, love and other tragedies. I liked his "song to four-year-olds. If I had a kid, I would TOTALLY play this song for them (and probably wish I'd written it myself)."
After the jump, more photos and a video.
Congrats to Russellville's The Sound of the Mountain, who won Round 5 of the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase last night at Stickyz.
They'll go on to the finals, Friday March 1 at Revolution.
We'll have more photos and video of each band from last night on the blog shortly.
Tonight! Tonight!! Tooooooniiiiiiiieeeeeiiiiieeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!!!
Sorry, got a little carried away for a sec. It's just that, well, the semifinals of the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase wrap up tonight, with Round 5, at Stickyz. And we are excited!
We've had great lineups each week, and this week is certainly no exception. We've got the warped, lo-fi pop of Fayetteville solo act Bartin Memberg. We've got the post-rock guitar explorations of The Sound of the Mountain. We've got the catchy indie-pop whimsy of Knox Hamilton. We've got the Southern rock groove of The Midnight Thrills. And we've got the sophisticated electro-pop of Collin vs. Adam.
Come on out and see which band makes it to the finals. Oh, and be sure so sign up to win passes to Wakarusa, Thunder on the Mountain and Bonnaroo.
If you've got a yen for blues-steeped Southern rock with a solid groove and satisfying guitar crunch, Little Rock's The Midnight Thrills are gonna be your jam.
The trio has obviously listened deeply and often to the canon of great classic rock — The Allman Brothers, Crazy Horse, The Black Crowes, Tom Petty and the like are discernible influences.
Check out the ragged, rockin' "Keep Me in Your Heart."
They play Round 5, closing out the semifinals.
Earlier we described their track "Aurelia" as a haunting piece of instrumental synth pop, with a pinging drum machine, delicate guitar lines and lush synthesizer, slowly unfolding over the course of the song.
Russellville quartet The Sound of the Mountain has the whole instrumental post-rock/shoegaze thing down — the atmospherics, the off-kilter rhythms, the circular guitar lines, the slow-burn dynamics building toward a squall of guitar, all of it.
All of that is to say, fans of Mogwai, Tarantel, Explosions in the Sky and the like should not skip this band.
Check out the band's "Confessions of an English Opium Eater."
North Little Rock's Knox Hamilton makes effervescent indie pop with rich vocal harmonies, propulsive rhythms and shimmering, chiming guitars.
It's largely upbeat, melodic stuff that recalls, say, a less electro-steeped Passion Pit or maybe Of Monsters and Men if that band were less inclined toward melodrama.
Check out Knox Hamilton's "Tom Joyce" for a good representation.
As mentioned earlier, Round 4 was super close. It came down to a difference of three points between the two Fayetteville bands — Tom and Hebron and Terminus, with the latter advancing to the March 1 finals on the strength of some raging prog-metal. It's hard to exaggerate just how impressed all the judges were with this band, especially considering the fact that they're all 17-18 years old.
Guest judge Shayne Gibbs wrote, "I've been playing Guitar for probably half as long as they've been alive, and they're all way better than I am. Give 'em some time to polish their stuff, then look out." Judge CT wrote, "I loved it!" These dudes killed it. These kids are only gonna get better."
Mandy McBryde echoed that: "They look way too young to sound this good." Grayson Shelton wrote, "That drummer will never be out of work! Really full sound for a three piece."
There are more photos and a video after the jump.
Fayetteville's Tom and Hebron brought some sophisticated pop/rock 'n' roll to the Showcase proceedings. The band is steeped in the sounds of the early to mid-'70s FM goldmine of Elton John, Wings, Jackson Browne and the like. Brothers Tom and Hebron Chester are joined by bassist and singer Clay Johnson and drummer Nick Fernandez, as rock-solid a rhythm section as we've seen so far.
Judge Mandy McBryde wrote, "They really get folks movin' and shakin'. Once upon a time, Billy Joel met Ben Folds Five."
Grayson Shelton heard "Good dance music. I danced with a girl and a dude... Happy Valentine's Day." CT wrote "This band is tight as hell, cool as ice. I like this." Guest judge Shayne Gibbs wrote, "I'm the worst dancer I know, but this makes me wanna dance."
After the jump is a video and more pictures.
Glad TobyMac found
A Backstreet Boys garage sale
Scored that sweet get-up
Worth noting that the original director of Avenue Q, Jason Moore, is from Arkansas. Might…
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