The 2009 Rock Hunt kicks off this weekend and the lineup proves to be perhaps the most colorful and diverse yet, matched by venerable statewide venues ready to host the sonic proceedings. The weekend throwdowns will culminate in a showdown at Lupo's in early April, and the top act will play a mid-April victory show at the winner of a venue hunt (vote now at wbru.com), as well as appearances at the highly successful Summer Concert Series. Program director Wendell Clough recently returned to WBRU and assures that the '09 Rock Hunt will be the most memorable yet.
DEMANDING SNACKS The Viennagram.
"We didn't let any genre get in the way of our judgment," Clough said last week shortly before the 12 semi-finalist were announced on-air. "It's fun for the fans and worth WBRU shining a spotlight on these acts."
The presence of a guiding hand like 'BRU veteran Clough is already apparent, as he emphasized the main difference in the 2009 Rock Hunt from years past is the guarantee of on-air exposure.
"By the end of 2009, no WBRU listener will be unaware of the winner and their music."
According to Clough, more than 140 entries were whittled down to 30, as each act was "painstakingly cataloged in a marathon six-hour session on March 1," then the entire 'BRU staff was invited to help narrow down the final 12 submissions.
Rock Hunt judges will include representatives from Warner Bros., Reprise, Universal Motown, and Epic Records and Band Stand Live, among others. Here's a preview of this weekend's opening-round action:
NEWPORT BLUES CAFE | Friday, March 13 | 9:30 pm–12:30 am | 21+
Named after the Grand Army of the Republic Highway (aka Route 6), New Bedford's GRAND ARMY (myspace.com/grandarmy) is led by the sultry voice of Alicia Racine. The Grand Army debut full-length, Toys for Chaos, will be released April 14. With four years in the biz and more than 300 shows under their belt from here to Manhattan, the quartet is ready for battle, and Racine summed up the band's sound: "Raw female vocals backed by dance-beat drums, deep driving bass, and keyboards upon keyboards. The lyrics are dark and sensual while the music is indie-pop inspired."
Taking the humble high road, Paul Carney and his Cumberland-based power-punk quartet THE DOWN AND OUTS (myspace.com/thedownandoutsri) can't believe they're even in this thing.
"Honestly, we're all dumbfounded we made it this far," lead singer/guitarist Carney said. "We never imagined WBRU would actually pick us to compete." Their high-octane persona shines through on their '07 EP debut, The Greatest Hits.
BAYLOCK (myspace.com/baylockmusic) quickly evolved from a high-school bonfire Sublime cover act to a tight-knit foursome (with three members attending UMass Lowell and lead singer/guitarist Chris Parry at Northeastern) whose range of influences (from Rx Bandits to State Radio) will soon be on display as the band wraps up their debut album.
Drummer Matt Kirby summed up the Baylock sound: "By blending the vibe of reggae with the aesthetic of punk, we've begun to hollow out our own niche of rootsy-indie rock."