UPDATE: Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Round 4: Sextets, Septets and Martyrs | Rock Candy

Friday, February 17, 2017

UPDATE: Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Round 4: Sextets, Septets and Martyrs

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 4:26 PM

click to enlarge Brae Leni - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Brae Leni

The Winner: Brae Leni and the Evergreen Groove Machine (formerly Soulution) took the win with a commanding frontman and a band that I wish would play any wedding reception I am ever invited to ever again. Leni sports a D'Angelo falsetto and a ton of energy, and the two women singing Supremes-style backup might have stolen the show were he not so fun to watch. Their drummer was effortlessly solid, the band's call-and-response game was strong and the final tune veered intriguingly from dance territory to something that resembled freeform jazz.

Some comments from our judges:

"The frontman is charismatic and the backing vocalists swaying really gives it that 60s-70s flavor."

"Lead guitarist MVP of the showcase. Phenomenal understated style. Drummer is a stone cold badass, too."

"Youthful exuberance, ska melody."

"I felt like the set got off to a rocky start, but the grooves got hotter and hotter with each song."

click to enlarge Jaimee Jensen-McDaniel of CosmOcean - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Jaimee Jensen-McDaniel of CosmOcean
click to enlarge Ron McDaniel of CosmOcean - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Ron McDaniel of CosmOcean

The Runner-Up: CosmOcean. In what may very well have made showcase history with the inclusion of a B5 (as in, a B above the treble clef) leading into the opening groove, CosmOcean showed off the major vocal chops of its two frontpeople: Ron McDaniel and Jaimee Jensen-McDaniel, two classically trained singers who also happen to be spouses. Jensen-McDaniel took the stage like a badass Bettie Page in a pink satin bomber jacket monogrammed with the word "FEMINIST," and the pair played to the crowd with some sexually charged duetting. For my taste, they were at their best when the band's grooves leaned toward bass-heavy funkadelic (which was most of the time).

Some comments from our judges:

"Theater-style presence. All movement on stage has a very deliberate feel to it."

"Choreographed stage jump!"

"Delightfully retro guitar tones."

"I imagine 'Hair' would have sounded like this if a funky prog rock band had written the music."

click to enlarge Scott Diffie of The Martyrs - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Scott Diffie of The Martyrs

The Martyrs:
It's a pretty amazing feat for four people to have made more noise than the other three 6-7 person acts, and The Martyrs put on a true blue rock show with AC/DC riffs and songs about the Arkansas State Fair and girls who drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. Rose City's resident tattoo lord Scott Diffie seemed like he pretty much sprung from the womb ready to climb on speakers and shred guitar solos, even when he was singing syrupy lyrics like "All I know is I really wanna have your hand." One of our judges put it pretty succinctly: The Martyrs f*cking rocked.

Some comments from our judges:

'Scott Diffie is a classic frontman. First-class banter between songs. Fantastic stage presence."

"First rock band that has had big enough amps."

"These guys do exactly what they came to do - rock hard!"

"'Exile on Main St.' abandon."

"You guys f*cking rock!"

click to enlarge November Juliet - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • November Juliet

November Juliet: Man, it's been a long time since I've seen a band with a bonafide hype man. November Juliet kept it weird with an American flag draped over the keyboard and a "Stop Making Sense"-style build that added members each song (including itsjusbobby) until there were six people on stage, all of whom sang. The sextet came across like some sort of super secret club that met in an undisclosed location to polish tight R&B harmonies and 90s-style makeout songs. Moments when an audience is slightly uncomfortable because they don't know what to expect are some of my favorite performance moments, and despite what one of our judges rightly called "uneven execution," the group sailed through an ambitious medley and a game of instrument-switching musical chairs.

Some comments from our judges:

"Hall & Oates harmonies with soul rap. ...Interesting concept with the white bearded sage shouter/rapper."

'A lot going on."

"There are some good ideas about putting on a show, but the execution of that needs work."

"Shout out to grey-bearded Ron Swanson in the back. Where's your saxophone?"


Brae Leni and the Evergreen Groove Machine put their Motown grooves up against DeFrance, Dazz & Brie and Rah Howard for the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase finals at Revolution Friday, Mar. 10.

UPDATE: In the past, the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase has often included a "wild card" slot in the Showcase finals: typically a band who didn't win their round but was a clear audience favorite or the Runner-Up who scored the most points overall. This year, we'd planned to do the latter and offer a spot at the finals to the Runner-Up with the top score. We tallied up the points and compared rounds. The top runner-up, Spirit Cuntz, wasn't available for the finals on Mar. 10. The next highest scores were from two runners-up in a dead tie: Fayetteville's The Inner Party and Little Rock's CosmOcean. Both CosmOcean and The Inner Party will advance to the finals at Revolution on Friday, Mar. 10, for a total of six competing bands.

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