Tuneful throwdown

The 2010 WBRU Rock Hunt semi-finalists, Pt. 1
By CHRIS CONTI  |  March 17, 2010

"The WBRU Rock Hunt is not designed to find the best 'alternative rock' act — we're out to find the best live act looking to earn more exposure along with some pretty cool prizes."

That was the response from 'BRU program director Wendell Clough when we spoke recently regarding some critical backlash for declaring Fairhaven the 2009 Rock Hunt champs. Clough was the first to admit that while Fairhaven's piano-driven numbers were not exactly in 'BRU's sonic wheelhouse (panty-melting alt-pop versus face-melting rawk), Clough & Co. fulfilled their publicity promises: WBRU hooked up the Cumberland-based foursome with more than 400 spins of their first two singles and numerous in-studio appearances and station-sponsored club gigs, as well as major opening slots for Zox and Guster.

"Would I have played [The Viennagram:] in regular daytime rotation had they won last year? Damn right I would," Clough emphatically declared.

Buckle up — the 2010 Rock Hunt arrives this weekend, and once again the WBRU staffers have chosen a well-rounded representation of local sounds. The 12 finalists offer intriguing competition, from aspiring high school seniors (the Valar) to a potential launching pad for a new collective of acclaimed local talents (Paper Eagles) to a veteran Latin-funk-jazz ensemble ostensibly suited more for WBRU's overnight jazz shift (Santa Mamba). Oh, and Boston is officially in the building (Flight Patterns).

Here's a preview of this week's opening-round action.

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READY TO WOW Santa Mamba.

NEWPORT BLUES CAFE, 286 Thames St | Friday, March 19 | 9 pm | $5 | 401.841.5510

PAPER EAGLES combines the respected and varied talents of singer/songwriter Chris Rosenquest (former Zebras frontman) and electronica maestro Ted James, with around-the-way musicians Adam Tucker and Reuben Fortes rounding out the quartet. Paper tiger? Highly unlikely.

"There are no answers, only more keyboards," reads their credo, and Paper Eagles could (literally) hold the keys to success in this year's Rock Hunt. The band lists Nine Inch Nails, Hum, Squeeze, and Helmet as influences (hot damn); seven songs on their site (MySpace.com/ PaperEagles) are worth checking out.

Judges undoubtedly will be wowed when SANTA MAMBA (SantaMamba.com) commandeer the stage in Newport, a venue highly familiar to the renowned seven-piece crew, fronted by Venezuelan-born lead vocalist Gio Murillo. The alt-radio crowd may be initially shellshocked before letting loose on the dance floor.

THE VALAR may be the night's underdog on paper, but the Barrington-based quartet's sound meshes with 'BRU's playlist (though the judges have final say) and a solid set from these high school seniors could turn heads. Check out their latest release, The Project (available at iTunes), as well as a new single titled "Anyway" at MySpace.com/thevalar45. MGMT-lite or the real deal? We'll see.

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QUINTESSENTIAL POWER POP Flight Patterns.

JERKY'S BAR & GRILL, 71 Richmond St, Providence | Saturday, March 20 | $5 | 401.621.2244

Grab hold of The Runaway EP (available at iTunes) from Boston's FLIGHT PATTERNS (MySpace.com/FlightPatterns MA) and it's blindingly clear why they were plucked — they unleash quintessential power pop calibrated for arenas and airwaves (check out "I'm a Mountain Boy, You're a Fairytale" and "L.B.'s Song") a la Taking Back Sunday and our own Monty Are I. The band toured big rooms nationwide opening for bible-thumping metal vets Stryper. Whaaat? Mike Sweet Jr.'s dad is Stryper's lead singer. Holy shit!

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