March is upon us (already?) — let the 'BRU bracketology commence! 'Tis the season for the annual Rock Hunt throwdown, featuring 12 acts competing for cash, prizes, live gigs (including a slot on the Summer Concert Series), and airplay at any and all hours of the day — not just the graveyard shift. While this year's crop of contestants may not bowl you over in terms of groundbreaking, genre-busting sounds, I think we'll have one of the more hotly-contested Rock Hunt battles of recent times. Sibling rawk duo VulGarrity ran away with the title last year. Tracy and Shawn Garrity are pros when it comes to working the room (oddly enough, they nailed a C&C Music Factory cover) and wowed the judges — myself included.
A few weeks back, program director Wendell Clough and fellow staffers carved out nine hours for the 90 (!) entries (20 more were deemed geographically ineligible) before narrowing it down to the dozen semifinalists. Clough also noted the influx of suburban homebase locations this year, with bands hailing from Wakefield to Weymouth to Worcester. And, yes, the Rock Hunt is open to bands from across the southern New England area, not just Rhode Island.
Here's the deal — three bands will perform a 25-minute set each night, and the four winners will be in the finals at the Met later this month. The battle for sonic supremacy begins Friday at the Spot Underground (15 Elbow St, Providence, 401.383.7133) with Kid Mountain (North Attleboro, MA), the Rice Cakes (PVD), and Grand Evolution (Uxbridge, MA). On Saturday, head to the Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Rd, Matunuck, 401.782.3740) and catch Satellites Fall (Coventry), Kingston 530 (Weymouth, MA) and Look North (Wakefield) looking for some hometown love. All shows are $5 at the door and start at 9 pm sharp.
KID MOUNTAIN (kidmountain.bandcamp.com): Citing the Microphones, Modest Mouse, and Talking Heads as influences, this quartet strikes with a stripped-down approach reinforced with some nice harmonies. The seven songs comprising their third and latest EP, Visitor's Center (all three are available for free download on their site), sound a bit more polished than their appropriately titled 2011 debut, Demonstrations. Visitor's Center caught my ear right from the acoustic instrumental intro "Cross Country." Lead singer Cole Wuilleumier corrals his inner Isaac Brock on "Upskirt" and current single "The Drift." Radio-Friendly Acoustic Shoegaze-Pop? Sure, why not.
GRAND EVOLUTION (grandevolution.com): Grand Evolution started out in 2006 behind their debut If You Only Knew and have cranked out records every two years since (all streaming and available for purchase on their website). Combine the opening riff of new single "Sweetheart" (from the new Collide EP) with Sarah Kenyon's vocals and I'm having a major Velocity Girl flashback (and there's certainly nothing wrong with that). Grand Evolution hit harder than the sweetened alt-pop I was expecting, and crunchier numbers such as "The Way I Kill" and "Happy Hour" (from their 2010 full-length The Recovery) should perk up some ears at the Spot. Kenyon provides vox and rhythm guitar, with Scott Kenyon on drums, Everett Foundry on lead guitar, and bassist Dave Trombley rounding out the quartet.
THE RICE CAKES (thericecakes.com): Rosalind Raskin and her buds, drummer Casey Belisle and bassist Justin Foster, have hit the live circuit hard over the past four years, grinding it out at basement house parties, dive bars, and sold-out hometown shows. Roz handles the glockenspiel and Fender Rhodes like a boss, with an impressive vocal range to match. They took Best Local Act honors in our 2010 Best Music Poll behind The Friend Ship, which was followed by the EP Feel Like Human ('BRU is spinning "Yellow Fields") and their recent effort, Monster Man. Raskin is also one of the most personable and enthusiastic artists I've ever met. Her stunning vocals on a recent cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" could further win the room over.
"We can definitely promise an energized and diverse set, one that'll show a lot of different angles of our sound, with a few fun surprises for sure. We're stoked to be a part of the Rock Hunt!" Raskin told me earlier this week. I'm laying the early money down on the Rice Cakes here.