KICKING INTO GEAR Torn Shorts. [Photos by Richard McCaffrey]
And the winner is . . . Torn Shorts! Congratulations to the East Bay quartet on a hard-earned victory at the 2013 WBRU Rock Hunt Finals held last Saturday at the Met. This was by far the best Rock Hunt I have been a part of over the past six years, a supremely stacked final four that fed off the energy of a jam-packed room (which was great to see) throughout the evening. Lolita Black, Kid Mountain, and the Brother Kite absolutely tore it up, but the spirited jams of Torn Shorts (led by budding superstar Josh Grabert) resulted in a narrow victory.
The judges panel of eight (a Rock Hunt record, I presume) included 2012 Rock Hunt champs the Rice Cakes, WBRU general manager Wyatt Crowell, reps from Warner Bros. and Mom and Pop Records (Waaves, Sleigh Bells), and some local media folks, including myself. The judging guidelines include six categories (scored 1-10): Songwriting, Musicianship, Vocals, Performance, Radio-Readiness, and Overall, with each band performing a 35-minute set (which started at the top of each hour). Disclaimer: anyone who has even occasionally read this page is well aware of my ongoing obsession with Lolita Black, and I have also been riding shotgun on the Josh Grabert bandwagon for a few years (dating back to his days with Gamblin' Hands), but truth be told I had all four bands within eight points of each other. And while I went 4-0 in predicting the final showcase showdown, I had no idea which way the judges would lean.
ALT-POP GEMS The Brother Kite.
The Met was abuzz by 7:45 pm, in what turned out to be a tremendous show of support, with plenty of family and friends of the bands on hand, as well as local club owners (Ricky Sunderland of Dusk was beaming when Torn Shorts started shredding) and fellow musicians (shoutout to Kris Hansen and Heather Rose!). The Brother Kite opened the show at 8 pm sharp. Towering lead singer Patrick Boutwell sported his trademark double-neck guitar and offered a weak introduction: "Hello, we just want to let you know that three of the five of us have bad colds."
>> SLIDE SHOW: WBRU Rock Hunt Finals <<
Come on, man! In all fairness, Boutwell's vocals clearly were affected and sounded a bit hoarse on the second song, "Eye to Eye," but the band's bulletproof harmonies really got cooking by the third song. My notes included references to Cheap Trick, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Partridge Family when they played "The Scene Is Changing," and "Get On, Me" is a an alt-pop gem channeling the Cure. TBK's next (long overdue) album titled Model Rocket arrives later this spring.
Torn Shorts followed and, as they did in the semi-finals, got off to a slow start before really kicking into gear. Grabert's Kool-Aid smile lit up the room while he and his mates jammed out on extended versions of "Devil," "It's a Feeling," and "Take My Soul." The Torn Shorts brand of bluesy beerhall rock may be not be the most "alt-rock radio-ready" fare that 'BRU has spun, but the live show speaks volumes; part of the prize package includes a headlining set at one of this year's Summer Concert Series shows. In the meantime, catch Torn Shorts at AS220 on April 16 and Machines With Magnets on April 24.