Two walkoff winners dominated the opening round of the 2012 WBRU Rock Hunt semifinals last weekend, with the Rice Cakes and URI alums Kingston 530 advancing to the final four. Six more acts will scrap it out this weekend and stay in the running for more than $5000 worth of prizes, plus a full year of steady on-air rotation and live gigs, including the 2012 Summer Concert Series.
The station has spread the Rock Hunt love by incorporating venues statewide, and there were packed rooms at the Spot Underground in Providence and the Ocean Mist on Matunuck Beach. The action rolls on at the Ruins at the Colosseum (180 Pine St, Providence) on the 9th and Newport Grand (150 Admiral Kalbfus Rd) on the 10th. Shows begin at 9 pm sharp with a $5 cover.
While all six acts each received at least one first place vote from the judges (including myself), the two bands with the most experience won convincingly in the end.
Kid Mountain opened the first night proceedings and owned the room early with an impressive fanbase in tow (particularly since the order was picked at random just prior to showtime) with a genre-splicing mix of boondock country and indie-pop (my notes read "grandkids of the Violent Femmes sleep, eat, and record in a barn"). GrandEvolution followed and, while the alt-pop quartet was clearly nervous and a bit rigid, lead singer Sarah Ken-yon got it going by the third song, and finished with their latest single "Sweetheart" to generous applause.
The Rice Cakes ended the show and closed the door on their competitors with a tight set of unique numbers, including the opening jamfest "Magma," the bebop scat of "Zabudabudee," and the giddy-up chug of "Yellow Fields," as Roz Raskin and her mates Casey Belisle and Justin Foster traded places and rotated instruments throughout.
Saturday at the Ocean Mist was a much tighter race (I had all three bands within three points), with Satellites Fall first up. Lead singer Marc Charron's gleaming dome and impressive pipes aside, these guys reminded me of Live on cuts like "Perfect Weather" and "The World Outside." I would expect new single "Servitude" (off their brand-new debut EP Lines On the Road) to remain in rotation. The young bucks comprising Look North exuded plenty of confidence during "Promises Made To Be Broken" and "Sunshine." But their downfall arrived when the band exited midway through the 30-minute set while lead singer Rod Pires slowed momentum with some solo acoustic stuff, before closing with "Wasted Youth" from the EP.
Kingston 530 were right back at home (the quintet started as an acoustic duo at URI in 2005) and clearly comfortable kicking out the feel-good jams. Lead singer (and natural born ham) Chris Ferrara was all smiles on pop nuggets "Long Time Coming," "Grass Is Greener," and "Carry On." The single "95" had plenty of bounce and sealed the deal for their win.
Now let's preview this weekend's batch of semifinalists. It should be another entertaining Final Four bracket come March 23 at the Met.FRIDAY
FREE HAT (facebook.com/freehatband): Previously called Bad Bromance, an acoustic duo that added a rhythm section just before their appearance in last year's Rock Hunt and didn't stand much of a chance against the smiling mugs of Last One Out (who ultimately felt the wrath of VulGarrity). The Cumberland-based quintet is off to a good start behind the new single "Free Limbs."
SUN OF SOUND (sunofsound.bandcamp.com): "Cloak & Dagger" is the title track from the band's debut full-length (following the Soular Patriarchs EP from late 2010). The Somerset quintet dish a mash of hip-hop vox (from Randy "Solace" Medina), guitar squalls, and uptempo rhythms. Should be a fun set.
NORTHERN LANDS (joshuacournoyer.bandcamp.com): Reference points range from Clutch to Credence Clearwater, with local music vet Josh Cournoyer (formerly of screamo crew Kodiak Attack) leading the charge on killer new cuts "Devil in the Rain" and "This Old War," one of my favorite local songs thus far in 2012. The band will hit the studio this weekend and begin work on a full-length disc, and recently landed Girl Haggard bassist Aaron Jaehnig. "Adding Aaron has opened up a whole new world sonically, and his experience with the Providence music is a great asset," Cournoyer said when we caught up last week.