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Ready to rumble

No genre left behind in the '09 WBRU Rock Hunt
By CHRIS CONTI  |  March 11, 2009


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, 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.

"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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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."

A vaudevillian rendition of A Clockwork Orange on acid barely skims the surface for art-rock ensemble THE VIENNA-GRAM ( Prepare for some holy-shit head-scratching when they kick off the festivities on Saturday. And make no mistake, the Viennagram's mastermind A.V. Vienna reports that the band is "in it to win." When I asked what demands WBRU must meet if they're crowned king, Vienna declared, "Complete control, diplomatic immunity, money, and snacks."

Another band set to release a debut in April is YOU SCREAM I SCREAM (, which includes lead singer/bassist and former Spookie Daly Pride dude Floyd Kellogg. YSIS is a fun-first outfit, but we're willing to bet they'll put up a good fight. If Soul Coughing and Morphine teamed up for a Schoolhouse Rock album, you'd be somewhere in the vicinity of YSIS.

The first week of Rock Hunt '09 bracketology wraps up with Providence-based quintet THE COMING WEAK (, an accessible blend of summertime rock and emo-indie power that translates to a sweaty showstopper live. TCW bassist Jeff Langmaid reports that a new EP is on the way this summer, and the band never met a stage they didn't like.

"The Rock Hunt is a great opportunity for more exposure as well as connecting with more people," Langmaid told me, "and that connection is why we play music."

Come back next week for the lowdown on the other six semi-finalists.

Related: Providence music news: February 27, 2009, DIY all over again, Get yr grog on all weekend long, More more >
  Topics: New England Music News , Alexander de Large, Baylock, Jeff Langmaid,  More more >
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