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Seven Bands Enter, One Band Leaves

In our own version of Thunderdome, the Battle of the Bands finally hits the Catalyst's main stage

By Peter Koht

In a town known for surfer rock, white boy reggae and funk bands, it's a bit surreal to assess the lineup for this year's Battle of the Bands. Between the blues harmonica of Stone Groove, the dark metal of Nothingleft and the punk styling of Ambivalence, the finals will definitely rock more than sway. There is even a healthy dose of glam.

Two groups, Sane and Antidote, bring the glory of the '80s to their acts. Sane's m0ji used to tour and perform during the golden days of the Sunset Strip in a band called Cheap Whine. While he has left L.A., he still brings the hard rock to the stage fronting Sane. With a punishing dual guitar lineup and m0ji at center stage, the group proudly displays its metal horns to a town filled with punks and hippies.

While m0ji's vocals would do Bret Michaels proud, the true protégés of the hair farmer scene in this town are Antidote. Starting out as a Poison cover band, this group brings all the makeup, attitude and tight spandex of the later Reagan years back to life with a vengeance. They are clearly prepared to mount the main stage at the Catalyst.

"We need a big stage, we all have wireless rigs and we do throws and shit like that. The second that we have the money, we are going to blow it on a stage setup and put the drummer in a cage."

Local stalwarts Stone Groove have a vastly different sound, but their singer, Brent, is prepared for the challenges of taking the stage the same night as a flamboyant glam band.

"We will purposely make the end of the set extreme," he says. "We have been doing things that we normally wouldn't do, like for example, I broke a guitar at the end of our last show. We pretended that Kiss had signed it, and then at the end of the set, we just destroyed it."

On a similar note, moody metal act Nothingleft is ready to swing things into overdrive for this show.

"People want to be entertained and we try to give it to them. We perform like a metal band and the mosh pit definitely gets going."

On the other end of the musical spectrum, local punk rockers Ambivalence are stoked to have such a variety of music on the bill.

"It's cool," their guitarist Emilio says, "There are no other real punk bands in the finals, so we feel like we are representing punk rock." Usually found rocking the paint off the walls at Caffe Pergolesi, Ambivalence is known for its high-energy sets and breaking the proscenium. "We try to make everyone feel like they are part of the show."

Further down the punk rock scale, the Villains of Vinyl are thrilled to have made the finals. While they would have been much happier with judges rather than a public vote, they remain stoked on the attention. Not that they are necessarily shrinking violets when assessing their own abilities to rouse a crowd.

"I kinda expected this based on what we have done in the last two years," says their drummer Elijah Post. "We have so much potential, it doesn't matter if we win or not."

The Addicts, normally recognized for their mountainous traits of "inbreeding, illiteracy and incompetence," are the strange ambassadors of this rock bacchanal. With the even tones of an elder statesman, their guitarist and singer Doug Burkhardt gives some mad props to some of the bands that they will share the stage with them on Friday. "I think that a couple of these bands really have a shot at becoming something. They are young and have their own sound. I have nothing but respect for them."

Like class elections or Senate committees, some events in the calendar are pretty much popularity contests, but the Battle of the Bands is one of those that finally gives a decent venue to some hard-working musicians. Whether you have every 7-inch Voidoids ever put out, or a signed copy of Dio's "Holy Diver," there's a band for you in this year's competition. Rock & roll may be all about the attitude, but it's still about the love.

The fifth annual Battle of the Bands happens Friday at 8:30pm at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., SC; tickets $10-$12; 831.423.1336.

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From the June 22-29, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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