And the Winner Is. kicked off the battle of the bands competition.
I know you are all on pins and needles, so let me get the drama out of the way right at the start, Kenzie James and the Knockouts were the far-superior of the four groups (Lovecapades did not compete), and easily took home the night’s top prize, winning recording time and a music video. The rockabilly quartet, headed by the energetic and adorable McKenzie James, rocked and indeed rolled through a hoppin’ five-song set that had the small crowd of mostly teenagers dancing along to the group’s unique sound.
Friday’s Battle was organized and hosted by the Food & Care Coalition to benefit their Provo facility that not only feeds over 100,000 people every year, but also provides those in need with showers, laundry, haircuts, job-seeking services and even chiropractic care. An organization that started as a group of local public officials, religious leaders and regular citizens who were concerned about the lack of services for Utah County’s homeless and low-income populations, the Coalition’s main focus is not only to feed these individuals, but to help them get on their feet with a myriad of services. This was the Center’s second year putting on such an event, following the success of last year’s edition.
The competition kicked off with Orem’s And the Winner Is.
, which is a name that should have all but guaranteed a result, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Their set was decent enough, but their sound is pretty generic. While a number of local bands are trying to distance themselves from that extremely soft “pop punk” sound, And The Winner Is!… revels in it. Songs like “Second Chance” are an example of what the Utah County music scene, almost across the board, sounded like 10 years ago.
Mary K. Jackson
was the next act in line, with help from Daniel Ogluin on percussion. A very different singer-songwriter than what is seen at the average coffee house, Jackson’s style of music is hard to explain. She has a very artsy vibe to her that would probably be more appreciated in San Francisco or New York City. Nonetheless, she put together a decent three-song set, highlighted by “Scoop the World,” a sweet, piano-backed tune that shows off Jackson’s unique vocals.
At this point, the crowd of 150 or so, patched out across the large grassy area behind the Coalition building, was pretty comatose, barely offering even courtesy applause at the end of each song. The next group, Spanish Fork’s Seven Second Sunset
, tried to change all of that by pleading with the crowd to stand up and come dance. Only a handful of them obliged, but it totally changed the feeling of the show. It really revitalized what looked to be a bit of a yawner, and for that, on behalf of everyone in attendance, I want to thank them. Oh, and their set was better for it. Seven Second Sunset is a very energetic band that might be worth seeing for a full set, but because of the limitations of the Battle of the Bands, they had to settle for 15 minutes or so. Their cover of “We Are Young” by Fun., was probably my least favorite part of the set, but was by far the crowd’s favorite.
The evening’s victors, Kenzie James and the Knockouts, followed and completely stole the show. Miss James, whose sweet persona and syrupy voice bring immediate comparisons to Allison Vernon-Williams, is about as appealing as any lead singer around. James is flanked by a trio of incredibly talented musicians—Erik Gibson on guitar, Cole Maxwell on drums and the extraordinary Reise Malachowski on standup bass, who all dress like they are extras from John Waters’ cult classic, Cry-Baby.
Playing a mix of covers and originals, the real knockout moment was when Malachowski took over the lead responsibilities from James on a brilliant cover of Percy Mayfield’s (and more famously, Ray Charles) “Hit the Road Jack,” with James stepping in to nail the song’s female portion. Though James is the clear cut leader of this group, Malachowski is definitely a fan favorite for anyone who sees this group. His quirky sense of humor, flashed between tracks, mixed with the charismatic way he plucks at his standup bass, makes the act of watching him worth the price of admission all on its own.
As the votes were tabulated, The Lovecapades
entertained the crowd with their poppy, fun sound. Their lead singer, Colin Rivera, and his English charm carried the energy built up by James and the Knockouts and pushed it further, making fans of everyone in the modest-sized crowd. “Who do you think will win?” asked Rivera. A good chunk of the audience responded “The Lovecapades!” It’s obvious that these boys love playing music. The first time I saw them was at another charity event, Provo’s Relay For Life, in August. Although they have over 10,000 “likes” on Facebook, they still have the humility and love of their craft to play these smaller shows for charity. It’s a great thing to see. Lovecapades can be seen opening for Hoobastank on Oct. 10, at In The Venue.
Although the event had a relatively small crowd (last year’s event drew around 700 people), the event might still be considered a success because of the quality and diverse music that was on display. The four competing bands were picked from a process that saw forty submissions and I think, overall, they were deserving of their respective spots. The Food and Care Coalition are hopeful of being able to do a third edition of the event next year. For more information and opportunity to volunteer, check out their website foodandcare.org