DYNAMIC DUO VulGarrity.
Torn heartstrings may trump torn guitar strings at this year's WBRU Rock Hunt, which kicks off this weekend when the first six acts take the stage (the remain-ing six will square off next weekend), all vying for a nice pack of prizes as well as coveted radio airplay. And for anyone still claiming the alt-rock station doesn't keep its word regarding Rock Hunt champs getting on-air props, may I refer you to the high-fructose pop nugget "Save Me" by 2010 Rock Hunt winners the Wandas (that goddamn hook has been permanently seared into my memory). This year's 12 semi-finalists (voted in by the entire WBRU staff) may not boast a genre-defying, stage-stealing act (see: [the Viennagram:]); in fact, there are more poppy piano-based acts in this year's throwdown than in any of the past three Rock Hunts I have participated in as a judge (for the record, I am 0-3 on Finals night) — thanks, perhaps, to Cumberland-based quartet Fairhaven, who triumphed with a walk-off win at Lupo's in 2009. Last year the Wandas arrived from their homebase of Boston (which, of course, led to some rumblings hereabouts) and took the crown.
IN IT TO WIN IT The Keeping.
Aside from plenty of airtime and high-profile gigs (including a slot on one of the Summer Concert Series shows), one of these bands will score a professional photo shoot, studio time, equipment, and website design. 'BRU station manager Wendell Clough is, as always, psyched for the Rock Hunt bracketology.
"I believe the Rock Hunt is WBRU's best annual event," he told me earlier this week. "It is so energizing to see how much it means to the bands just to take part, and I think all music fans get fired up at the notion of unlimited possibility.
"It's like baseball's spring training — a new year, new possibilities, anybody can win."
Here's a look at what to expect this weekend during Round One:
NEWPORT GRAND | 150 Admiral Kalbfus Rd, Newport | Friday, March 18 | 9 pm | 18+ | $5 | 401.849.5000
THE KEEPING (thekeeping.com): Here we go, another pop-rock band declaring Boston as its headquarters (straight outta Franklin, MA, actually). Their piano-laced numbers have received airplay on SiriusXM Radio and love from absolutepunk.net. Lead singer Thomas Whitehead said: "We love what we play, what we write and we love getting better at both, and we can't wait to get up there and show WBRU that we deserve to win."
BUILT TO PARTY Haze.
HAZE (thathazemusic.com): With blue-eyed soul jamming atop the rap-style verses plus keys and synths (like a stoned Chromeo), the songs streaming off their demo ("Yellow Brick Rhode," "Love Ride") are built to party. If Haze can replicate the in-studio fun onstage and get the crowd behind them, they may pull off a victory.
VULGARRITY (vulgarrity.com): The early money goes down on VulGarrity, the multi-talented sibling duo (Shawn and Tracy Garrity) who channel KISS and Queens of the Stone Age, as well as an ongoing obsession with Halloween and axe murderers (see last year's Dance 2 the Grave, the killer follow-up to their '08 debut, If You Sing it, They Will Hum . . .). Their live set alone is worth the drive to Newport.