By Dusty Ray
Scene Magazine’s 20th Annual Battle of the Bands took over Hodi’s Half Note on the chilly evening of November 13 to showcase the local talent of some of Northern Colorado’s best musical acts. Nine ambitious bands showed up to rock the stage and liven up the night – Champagne Breakfast, Papagoya, T-Moody, Synergy, Blind Strike, Kingman Brewster, Nautical Mile, Mosey West and Shooting Down Satellites all gave unique and hard-hitting performances. Sweaty teenagers, hip senior citizens and every age group in between came out to support and vote for their musical friends and family in a Battle Royale of genres, styles and energy.
The first place winners of the Battle will receive ten hours of recording studio time at Morningwood Studios; this month’s cover of Scene Magazine; and a write-up about their band (right). The second place winners will have one song recorded, mixed and mastered to its full potential by Jason Larson of Backbone Studios; a feature article in a future issue of Scene; and one band promotion photo by a professional photographer. Third place winners will receive a feature article in Scene and one band promotion photo by a professional photographer.
Strong performances abounded at this year’s Battle. Each band was a leader in their own genre, making it a challenging evening for the judges. The bands were judged on their style, instrumentation, presentation, audience participation/votes, vocals (if applicable), originality and more. Each band’s scores were added up at the end of the night, and the bands with the highest scores placed respectively. (Editor’s Note: Due to multiple acts of cheating witnessed by the judges, audience votes were thrown out and did not factor into the judges’ final decisions.)
Third place came down to a two-way tie between reggae/world music masters Papagoya and the hard-hitting hip-hop of Kingman Brewster.
Second place was handed to the youngest band of the evening (ranging in age from 15 to 18), Synergy, who wowed the audience with their musical talents, energy, onstage chemistry and humorous lyrics. They scored extra points with the judges for their ability to work through performance problems seamlessly, being sure to keep the audience entertained during any downtime (there was an electronic issue with a pedal board).
This year’s prestigious first place prize was bestowed upon the creative alt-country trio, Mosey West. Mosey West scored high with the judges due to their originality, strong songwriting skills, broad musical range and well-rehearsed instrumentation and performance.
First Prize Winner Spotlight: Mosey West
The term “alt-country” has been thrown around when describing Mosey West’s music, but they prefer the self-coined term “sonic folk.” The trio consists of Adam Brown (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica) Mike McGraw (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar) and Matt Weitz (drums, piano). This group of friends has been writing music and playing shows around town for just over a year, performing songs that echo the hard work and dedication of each member. With a strong and accessible back catalogue, Mosey West graced the Battle of the Bands stage with their unique musical style, energetic stage presence and keen audience interaction.
Mosey West played mostly from their latest release, Vaca Money, a rollercoaster of rockin’ peaks and well-placed refrains. The energy and originality showcased on the album also showed up in their live set, making it one of the more diverse sets of the night. Ranging from blues to country to good ol’ Americana, Mosey West is a pallet of the origins of rock. There are tentative plans among the band for the release of another EP in the spring, or perhaps even a full-length cut, but as with most things nowadays, time and money constraints can cause setbacks.
Mosey West hopes to gain some more drive and support with their first prize winnings, but they still subsist on their live performances.
“When we started this band, we did well on our own expectations – we went from the garage to Road 34, and then to the studio. The first thing is playing onstage; recording comes second,” McGraw said.
Mosey West is no stranger to winning contests, either. The recording of Vaca Money was a prize won through a Marquee Magazine recording contest. The band’s work ethic is apparent, but they are also in it to have fun and do what they love.
“There was no overwhelming pressure to win contests or ‘make it big,’ but we were short on money and winning contests definitely helps,” Brown said.
The origins of Mosey West are humble. Brown met McGraw a little over a year ago, and the two worked on combining songs they had already been kicking around. Weitz and McGraw had been playing together on and off for around three years. With a lot of material ready, the boys got together and started etching out a sound for the trio.
“Working in a trio pushes the music harder. It forces us to make parts that are interesting and involve less jamming or improvisation, and we create more concrete songs,” Brown said.
Playing as a trio has been working fine for Mosey West, though they are not shy to have friends sit in on certain songs. They are also interested in adding a pedal steel player, preferably one who drives a van (hint hint). The two vocalists add their own touch to each song, creating a balancing dynamic while keeping the listener engrossed. Brown’s lyrics are meant to be relatable, while McGraw prefers to let the audience come up with their own meanings to his lyrics.
“We want to create music that people can dance or drink to. We are really geared towards the live show,” McGraw said.
Mosey West plays at Bar SS on December 10, followed by a show at Moe’s Original Barbeque on December 17.
Second & Third Prize Winners: Synergy, Papagoya & Kingman Brewster
Coming in second place was Synergy, a pop-punk group made up of seemingly-unruly (they made the honor roll, so they’re not that unruly) Denver high school youth who shredded the stage with their blazing talent. Tearing through driving, epically fast pop-punk riffs with ease, Synergy set the crowd up for a treat. Bodies swayed and heads bobbed as these young musicians put their all into playing a prize-winning set. Their energy and stage presence was undeniable, making them a worthy contender for a prize from the start.
Third place was a tie between the groovy, organ-driven reggae crunchiness of Papagoya and the hard rock/hip-hop fusion of Kingman Brewster. Papagoya bounced between the sounds of Jimmy Smith and Toots and the Maytals, bringing a smooth, patchouli-scented vibe to the night. Kingman Brewster brought an energy and vocal aggression that destroyed any sense of a calm Sunday night – Their emcees’ rhymes were strong, and their backing band was tight and well put-together.
It’s a Wrap
Other notable performances from the evening included T-Moody and their down-home dirtiness, Blind Strike with their post-rock versatility, and Nautical Mile with their indie quirkiness and hard-hitting pop vocals.
The Northern Colorado music scene showed its diversity with such a wide range of talented acts, making this Battle of the Bands a cornucopia of tastes. Every band was on the ball, playing well-rehearsed sets with only the occasional hiccup or missed cue.
Scene Magazine would like to thank all of the bands who participated in this event, as well as our accommodating (and good-looking) sponsors: Our allies at Morningwood Studios and Backbone Studios, the fun-loving staff at Hodi’s Half Note, the event production gurus at Shaped Music, and all of our music-loving friends over at SpokesBUZZ.
We look forward to seeing you at next year’s Scene Magazine Battle of the Bands!