The semifinalists have been chosen and the lineups are locked in — the 2014 WBRU Rock Hunt is officially ready to roll. Some familiar names and relative newcomers will compete for a hefty prize pack valued at more than $4500, as well as coveted radio airplay and guaranteed slots at upcoming ’BRU-sponsored shows, including the hugely successful Summer Concert Series.
Rhody-based bands — from Westerly to Woonsocket — are well-represented among the nine semifinalists, along with a handful of acts spanning the station’s entire listening area, selected from more than 80 entries. Everyone remain calm: official rules state at least one band member must live within WBRU’s listening area, and station manager Wendell Clough said a number of submissions north of Boston were disqualified (“I figure someone up in Dracut, Massachusetts, must have a really good antenna,” he cracked). The nine bands will rock out over three nights at various local venues. There is a slight twist to the eventual final four showdown to be held later this month, though — the three victors will be joined by a finalist TBD via online voting, and that vote count must be greater than the total tally racked up by 2013 wildcard semifinalists the Bitchin’ Aardvarks (straight outta North Scituate).
The Rock Hunt officially gets underway this Friday (the 7th) at the Spot Underground (101 Richmond St, Providence, 401.383.7133) — this one is 18-plus, and note the early 7 pm start time. The remaining bands will square off next weekend at JR’s Bourbon Street Rock House (inside Mardi Gras, 1500 Oaklawn Ave, Cranston, 401.463.3080) on Thursday the 13th and Fatt Squirrel (formerly the Roi, 150 Chestnut St, Providence, 401.808.6898) on Friday the 14th; both shows are 21-plus and begin at 9 pm. All shows are just $5 at the door.
The judges panel will consist of local music media folks, national record label reps, sound techs, and former Rock Hunt champions (yo Raskin and Grabert — let’s party!). And while the 2014 Rock Hunt roster may lack the wildly varied, all-pro lineup like last year (that final four was pretty damn incredible), I imagine we judges will once again have our hands full.
“Listening to all 85 entries, you sense nobody here is really going for the ‘synth-rock’ thing that is happening nationally right now — there’s more of an indie-roots thing going on here,” Clough noted.
So here we go; let’s meet the nine contenders.
Here We Just Dream [Photo by Chris Anderson]
HERE WE JUST DREAM (herewejustdream.bandcamp.com): Fall River is in the building! This quintet cites Yes, the Chili Peppers, and Fleet Foxes as vital influences, going for a breezier take on indie-prog rock. Big harmonies and keys envelop the latest single “People Love.” Drummer Matt Heisler’s subtle rumble keeps the groove cooking, while keyboardist Taylor Kirkwood and guitarists Brad Goff and Tim Doherty jump in on the action. I would assume HWJD will also dip into its 2012 debut self-titled EP, led by “Birds Fly Information,” and a three-song release from last summer titledWind With You, featuring the uptempo cuts “Take Away” and “To Be Devoured.”
The October Accord
THE OCTOBER ACCORD (reverbnation.com/theoctoberaccord): Just over the Rhody state line comes the October Accord representing the Blackstone/Millville, MA area. Paramore is the go-to reference when vocalist Kerri Gross lets loose over the sweetened pop-punk chug of “No Regrets” and “Here’s To You” (also reminiscent of previous Rock Hunt semifinalists Sienna). “On My Own” is made for the live setting, and “The Flood” is a standout. If Rock Hunt newbies TOA can keep the nerves in check, they could be a prime dark-horse candidate.
The Rare Occasions [Photo by Arianna Soto]
THE RARE OCCASIONS (therareoccasions.com): The Boston-via-Barrington foursome have Rock Hunt ties dating back to drummer Luke Imbusch and singer/keyboardist Brian McLaughlin’s days in the Valar. The Rare Occasions fell victim to the thunderous Lolita Black last year, but I recall the crowd getting down with “Miss Mary Mack.” The band released a debut EP a few months later titled Applefork (streaming and available at therareoccasions.bandcamp.com). I keep thinking of Arctic Monkeys when I listen to personal favorites “Scarlet Lies” and “Getaway,” and I’m taking TRO in a close one.