Friday, June 30, 2006

The Devil Deals the Cards

Greetings and salutations.

Yes, I’m late. Dock my pay. But nearly all the water is out of my basement, and since it looks like I might get an hour or two without rain, I thought I’d take this column outdoors. It only took a whopping ten minutes for me to miss my air conditioner, though, so we’re safely back inside, packing for my 4th of July vacation. I fully intend to violate as many fireworks safety rules as possible, so careful preparation is required. And even though my time of relaxation looms on the horizon, I’m still sitting here at the keyboard. Still writing, just for you. Well, not necessarily for YOU per se, but for a reader that I actually like. Of course, I could point out that I don’t really like anyone, but then I might have an identity crisis, and no one wants that. Not yet, anyway…

While I might need to make some “me” time to get my motivations in order, I have quite a bit of mail regarding last week’s Battle of the Bands (no, not mine; the one hosted by The Venus Transit) that I want to get to. Following 6 weeks of preliminary voting controversy and 3 nights of judged performances, the finale of the Transit’s supposed good deed did plenty to get people talking. What sort of Phantom would I be if I didn’t listen?

“ what was the point to the whole thing? One band walked away with the money and the only people who really got the spotlight were the hosting band.”

Not true. The publicity was valuable to everyone. This was more than just getting your name on a flyer. It was about crossing some genre barriers and getting exposure to fans who might legitimately hear someone new and latch on. There were more people at the shows than I’ve ever seen come out for some of these bands, so for a lot of guys, it was a good way to get heard, and a great opportunity to make some local connections (if one were so inclined). I can safely predict that many of these acts will be teaming up at gigs for like-minded mayhem very soon. It was also a good vehicle to whore band merch, complete with sales table and professional display.

“Man, f*** the judges! What do those a**h**** know? Only f***in people whose opinion mattered was the crowd. They shoulda been the judge”

Quite a few people wrote in to share a similar sentiment, but I just opted to print the one with the best profanity. I can see where a lot of these people are coming from, but the only time that crowd-based judging works in smaller numbers is at a wet t-shirt contest (FLASH: free show gimmick idea to anyone who wants to make good on it). If the audience were responsible for choosing a winner, the contest then becomes about who can get more of their people in the door, and who’s fat mother can yell the loudest. [*shudders*]

“Speak of the Devil should’ve won. Why do you think they didn’t?”

“K1 deserved to win. They were a better band with a different sound.”

Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda. Both Steeltame and Speak of the Devil played pretty intense sets on the final night, and having reviewed both bands in the past, I saw both take their games to a new level. The people who cheered for them aren’t going anywhere, so loss is a subjective term. If they maintain that intensity when a cash prize isn’t on the line, they’ve made a huge leap forward.

But people want to talk about the voting. They always do. The losers want to know why they lost, and the winners feel eager to explain. As for why they didn’t win, I’ve heard a lot of explanations in the days since about how the voting was decided, but as I understand the official evaluation, K-1 Royal’s win was based on their ability to engage and excite a crowd they had no prior relationship with. Being from out of town, they were able to blindly win people over, as opposed to someone performing for their pre-established fan base.

It certainly sounds rational – almost too rational. Something that rational sounds….rationalized. You be the judge, so we can move on. In the future, though, I recommend The Venus Transit take an active PR role in ensuring their own members don’t undermine them. Thanking K-1 Royal in a public forum for “not playing heavy metal” looks worse than having a Limp Bizkit cover as your most requested song. It’s sharp, but I trust you get my point.

Vacation is calling, but you’ve been waiting for it – so here it is. The results of this week’s most triumphant Band vs. Band grudge matches.

Madrone vs. Half Moon: The normally laid-back cats in Half Moon had a score to settle, breaking out the brass and surprising Madrone as they slept, unleashing a trumpet blast designed to bring the building down. But only the bassist was asleep in his bed; the rest were out at an after-party, arriving as Half Moon sifted through the rubble. Laying down on the gas with intent to finally put the ROV van to good use, Madrone tore in. Speeding recklessly into the fray, they mowed down hipsters until a well-placed Molotov cocktail got through the passenger window, frying the guitarist and leaving the drummer to gravity’s cruel kiss as JD made a last-second dive from the driver’s seat. Finding himself alone against the jam band survivors, he channeled his radio power to call to his aid the fury of a dozen, cute summer interns. Underpaid and underdressed, they arrived on the scene to assist their mighty mentor, until Half Moon’s singer pulled a stunt of his own. Turning on the irresistible cool, he became the slickest dude within a quarter mile, flocking the interns to him as though he were Elvis. But charm, it seems, can be a two-edged sword, and he realized it with his last breath as the mob crushed in about him. Trying to pull their suave leader from the clutches of hormonal groupies, they never saw the stampede of metalheads running their way until one of them looked down and noticed the Metallica tickets JD had just thrown at their feet. Madrone wins.

Burning Bridges vs. Drivn: No surprise encounters. No sneak attacks. This was old school, in the middle of downtown at high noon. Every man armed to his own preference, the singer from BB fired the first shot. Loading up his bow, he quickly put an arrow in the eye of Drivn’s mace-wielding, second guitarist, getting two-for-one as the dead man’s arms flailed dangerously in the air as he fell. As he fumbled the medieval weapon into the skull of the bassist, what once was five was suddenly three. Squaring off on each other, the drummers prepared to unleash hell, but the master of the digital kit couldn’t hold up against the real hardware that Drivn broke out, as a sharp cymbal painfully obligated him to a future in a Def Leppard tribute band. Holding their advantage, Bridges charged, but just as they prepared to overwhelm their enemy, an unexpected shot rang out. From across the way, the surviving keyboardist from the Worx planted a vengeful sniper shot in the temple of BB’s burly bassman. Stopping suddenly at the sound, Isaiah paid the price as Drivn’s guitarist put a trident through his chest. Picking up Kenny’s power drill, Bridges’ singer lunged for his cymbal-tossing enemy, burying the bit into his heart and giving it a spin for good measure. Unarmed but not out of ideas, Kenny attacked his string-bending counterpart in retaliation for Isaiah’s untimely demise, taking off his own shoe to deliver a personal hammer-on. Running to his bandmate’s side, however, the voice of Burning Bridges took a tumble and landed on 4 steel inches of his own irony. Now one on one with Drivn’s singer, Kenny stood and took aim. His shoe rocketed through the air towards Trampus’ face, but then…that look. Blinded by the beauty of “Magnum!”, Kenny AND his shoe froze at how ridiculously good-looking the frontman was. He could only stare in amazement as Drivn’s vocalist sang him his swan song with a microphone stand to the head. Drivn wins.

Won’t know if there will be a column next week until I get an idea of how much liquor I’m going to consume over the weekend. Once I sober up, we'll break out brackets for the last 8 bands in our battle. Keep those emails coming, and have a safe holiday. Until next we meet…

- The Phantom