Friday, March 27, the Engler Center played host to 11 bands for Launchpad’s Green Bay area garage band competition. Each band that had made it to the regional competition was com¬peting for a place at state, and even better, a gig at Summer¬fest. With playtime at the world’s largest music festival you can be sure that the bands came ready to rock. And they did. Every per-formance was respectable, but there were about five of them that were head and shoulders above the rest. Here’s what was up for grabs that weekend.
Teenage Hormone Company
Teenage Hormone Company, hailing from the IDEAS Acade¬my in Sheboygan, was the first group to the stage, and with seven members the largest we’d see all night. The versatility this afforded was probably their best asset. Singers covered for the gaps in each other’s range and the instrumentation was full and vivid. Consequently any mistakes were probably drowned out by their fellows. They played two covers and one original piece, though the covers were a bit stronger. All in all, not a bad start to the night.
Birch, a trio from Wasau East High School came on strong and hit from a different direction. The band showcased a much softer indie rock inspired sound, cutting a path away from the generally harder stuff on display before¬hand. The band was also much quieter on set, but it certainly fit the more contemplative music. Of their three songs, the original, Bridges, hit the hardest. It was also the one song not mained by their frontman. Given the other kid’s strong performance, they might want to give him more air time. This was also the band outside the three winners and runner up I would have given the best chance of winning. Better luck next year guys.
Small Talk’s lead singer, Abi Siebers, cut a quiet image on the stage working to rile up an im-pressively faithful following while the players lent her solid backup. But while some of the previous bands might covered any mis¬takes they might have made with sheer exuberance, Small Talk’s songs seemed like interesting choices, often noticeably push¬ing out of the comfortable range of the lead singer. They weren’t bad songs, but the band might need to look to music that plays more to their strengths. Here’s to next year guys.
The Back Seat
Tato the band before them, while they also played two covers and an original, the lat¬ter was far superior. Their song “Chandelier” was a surprising¬ly mature piece with a fair bit of depth, and they really put their hearts into it. It was rather dis¬appointing when they went back for a second cover afterward.
Eden was the final perfor¬mance of the evening that an¬swered, yes, there is still a band that can follow up to what we’ve already seen. The Duo from Wautoma High School was the second group to choose a qui¬et, indie-rock based direction, and it paid off. Unfortunately, I’m probably not well situated to comment on the soulful music. While the band displayed excel¬lent technical skills, the chosen songs weren’t to my taste. In any case the group is headed on to state.
BFOE hailed from Mishicot and Lincoln High Schools. They ran through a couple of workmanlike performances before really hit¬ting their groove with their third song, the cover Cigarette Day-dreams. BFOE had a tough act to follow, but they also brought along their own cheering section, hoisting signs and cheering the Vanessa with the lead singer’s interesting nickname.
The much anticipated all fe¬male rock band hailed from all over the state, Menasha, Neen¬ah, Appleton and Oshkosh. Punk rock bands have a bit of a tradition of valuing attitude over talent, and Eminence seemed solidly in that camp if their ren¬dition of Cold hard Bitch and a Beastie Boys single was any indication. The group probably had the most thorough stage costume at the performance and the singer Coleen Cline devoted just as much energy engaging the crowd as she did the music. But their technical performance was by no means far behind. It takes a lot of talent to make me appreciate a Beastie Boys cov¬er, and these girls actually did it. Honestly, they were impressive, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they end up the next big thing in the vein of Halestorm or The Pretty Reckless.
The Sobieski Outlaws
The Outlaws were introduced as the finalist from last year’s con¬test, a designation that placed a pretty heavy pressure to perform on the band. They responded with excellent musicianship and technical skill. The band was off to a solid start with Seven Na¬tion Army and the original Next Year, but it was their surprise rendition of Bush’s Come Down that they really came alive on. I don’t know if it was planned or a last minute addition, but while the schedule indicated Dani Cal-ifornia the band tore into an ex¬cellent piece of grunge rock. It was pretty obvious why they had made it as far as they did last year, however, they did not have quite as much energy as some of the other bands. Their show¬manship wasn’t terrible, but it was really the only area that they fell behind on.
Karmah knew what it was about. The crew assembled from Sheboygan and Howards Grove was probably best personified in their lead singer Mimi. The lass was a consummate showman. While many bands were obvi¬ously too focused on the music to really acknowledge the crowd, Karmah had none of the awk¬ward bluster to endemic to the teenage years. Mimi was danc¬ing on the stage with her guitar, leaning down in front of the crowd and then running over to a band-mate to share the spotlight. The entire band got in on the action and honestly seemed to be hav¬ing too much fun to worry about who was going to win this thing. The band was also the first one to really get the crowd on their feet in front of the stage. Karma played a mix of covers and orig¬inals and did well by all of them. But the winner of the bunch was definitely Keep it Quiet, a song they credited to a friend’s band. The group set a high bar for the rest of the performance.
Till I Rise
Till I Rise was the first and only attempt at a metal band we would be seeing that night, and I have to give them props for try¬ing. Metal is absolutely brutal on the throat, and it’s the rare teen-ager whose voice has matured enough to put out the necessary black speech. The vocalist for Till I Rise was often pretty close, but sometimes he ran a bit off, especially in the softer portions of the songs. He also had some problems recovering from the harsher segments. There’s a reason even professional bands often have different singers for traditional metal screaming and the softer, more melodic bits of their songs. To be fair, at least one of the songs they performed was meant for a duo or at least multi-tracking as the lyrics no¬ticeably ran together. The frontman for Till I Rise might find he can really shine with a backup singer.
Hallofix, hailing from Denmark High School and notably also Denmark Middle School, was a band for guitarists. No offense intended to the percussion on display, it was perfectly service¬able. But every song they per¬formed was a showcase for the three guitars chewing up the scenery. And they deserved ev¬ery second of it. The boys were really quite good. However this also played into their biggest weakness. Hallofix’s lyrics took a definite back seat to the guitar playing. The more strenuous the riff, the more attention it pulled away from the two guitarist/vo¬calists actually singing the song. This might be another example of a band that could use an addi¬tional dedicated vocalist, so the sweet licks don’t get in the way of the lyrics.
We’d like to hammer home that just getting to the regional Launchpad garage band compe¬tition was an achievement, and we’d like to thank all the bands that came and gave it a shot, whether or not they went home with a prize. There was some ex¬cellent material on display from everyone present, and the com¬petition showcased a number of budding young professionals. The bands that went on, Kar¬mah, Eminence, Eden and run¬ners up The Sobieski Outlaws were all incredibly deserving and we wish you the best. Get out there and get it guys.