Chris Forsythe is doing his best to ignore the hype. But as his band Gripped, a local metal outfit, tears across the stage amidst a throng of fist-pounding fans, a wry smile escapes him. That's because his is among 11 other bands that have already qualified for the final round of this summer's Best of the Bands competition, with the winning band getting an opportunity to appear in an upcoming independent film starring Ted Nugent. Yes, Ted the "Nuge" Nugent.
"Obviously, every band in this contest wants to win," noted Forsythe, whose band recently signed a management deal and wrapped up recording an album in Los Angeles, "but just playing out and making new fans is more important." His ambivalent modesty may be the most popular sentiment in this contest, which pits longtime band mates and close friends against one another. The event will be held in the cavernous Rum Bay downtown on Wednesday, July 30.
"It's like a social gathering for all these bands that are friends in the scene," said John Peterson of Try Redemption, a band that failed to make the finals. The contest began whittling away contestants two months ago, with semifinal battles taking place every Wednesday night.
"We started out with over 150 submissions, and as we make our way down to the finals, the mood has gotten more serious," said Joe Reid of RKR Productions, the event organizer and executive producer of the film Hard Road, which will also feature rocker Sammy Hagar and actress Bo Derek.
"The bands are starting to sense what's at stake, and that's a chance to bring their music to a much wider audience," said Reid, adding that the winning band will not only have a song featured on the Hard Road soundtrack, but will also make a cameo appearance in the film.
In an attempt to reach out to what Reid calls "the KILO demographic," he enlisted the help of Insight Marketing, a local advertising agency that promoted the contest in the media and helped build enough buzz around the event to ensure a steady audience turnout, as well as a plethora of submissions from interested bands.
The event was open to artists of all genres and styles as long as they had a recording of their music. But, noted Reid, "In selecting the bands we looked past the recording quality of their submissions and focused on their skill level and potential."
The overall winner will be determined by a panel of three judges who will take audience participation into account as 25 percent of a band's final score. But Reid expects the decision to be close. "For this contest, we wanted the best bands available, and the competition has been stiff," he said.
The final qualifying round will feature Barren Creek, Basil Reid, Evolution, Knight Angel, Skapegoat, Southern Justice, TrickLife, and Whatever. At press time, the winner has not yet been determined. One of these bands will then move on to the finals to face Love 45, Ben Park Drive, Tron, Distant Warning, Sanguine Addiction, The Brothers, Blue Sun, Fail-YeRZ, Velvet Jesi, The Martini Shot, Dyemaniacal, and Gripped.
Whether the contest truly features the region's best bands, or merely the most marketable, remains an issue of concern to some. Regardless, the Best of the Bands is generating a lot of adrenaline for those who hope to be crowned "The Best," while for others it may just be a last chance to realize their fleeting rock star dreams.