View from the Pit: Can I get a light?

I had the chance to photograph the second round of the Band Challenge at Madison Theater. Band competitions by far and wide are the best way to experience what your local music scene has to offer, the good, the bad, the ugly and the completely unexpected. This show or series of shows really is the best way to test the waters. This is the first show of the second round for this year’s Challenge hosted by the Madison Theater and a list of local sponsors; winner gets $5k and some bragging rights.

Overall I was impressed. I had my expectations shattered by The Grove and my previous expectations upheld from the consistent performances of Sleep Star Ignition and Here Come Here, both of which I'm expecting will be battling into the finals. 

Sacred Souls are a solid, practiced, no frills rock band. They are solid performers with balanced sound, a strong stage presence and strong performance. Good old fashioned rock and roll.

Skaptimistic is a young and energetic band. Skaptimistic were definitely the crowd pleaser of the night. The lighting was tricky for their set and I wasn’t able to get as many shots of the band as I would have wanted. Seeing a ska band take the stage was refreshing. They hit their stride right away and rode it out for the entire set. 

Ocean Grid is fast, loud and confident. You can tell right away that this band is practiced. They really connected with the crowd. Their energy brought the house down. Being the night’s only heavy metal act, they definitely had strong support in the pit.

Sleep Star Ignition owned the stage. They had good energy, emotion and power. The second guitarist added good dimension and depth to the sound I'm not going to pretend to play impartial; I genuinely enjoyed Sleep Star Ignition and have enjoyed their performances in the past. Their sound is dynamic, enjoyable to listen to and unique to me. These guys know how to make good music and create a sound that is a step above and has identity. Only more impressive than their sound is their stage presence, they own it, it is their bitch and they simply ooze energy and confidence. From the blistering raw emotion of the vocals to the dynamics of the instruments further improved by the addition of a rhythm guitar these guys are musicians and performers. Sleep Star Ignition is a show and a damn impressive one at that.

Here Come Here is a blend of good hip-hop, real good.  Here Come Here is definitely one of the stand outs and the crowd they drew in made that clear. They command the stage as well as any head liner should and have the talent and drive to keep going. Here Come Here has a solid and unique sound that helps them stand out, more to the point that polished sound is accompanied by a stage performance that’s equally as impressive. Making them all the more pleasurable to shoot was a set of light boxes that shot up a strong beam of light when the guitarist and bassist stood on them. Cheap and simple they added depth and good imagery to their stage performance and I tried to capture that as much as I could. Now only if they could rig something up for the drummer... Did I mention these guys were good? 

Dynamite Thunderpunch had good energy. They had a balanced sound and solid musicianship. STI and HCH are definitely hard acts to follow in my book but they gave them a run for their money. I heard a lot of potential from Dynamite Thunderpunch and they have the confidence and energy to keep it going. I hope I see more of them in the next round.

The Grove was the last act of the night and I'm dragging, I've been up sense 6am and its showing. First thing that hits me, "Are these kids really wearing ties?" I was already seeing my review in my head. "Bands should be focusing on perfecting their sound and not uniforms..." I started putting together funny lines but then was quickly put in my place. They didn't come out of the gate like a shotgun like most of these bands do; they started off with a damn impressive instrumental warm up. These kids know how to play. For a solid minute The Grove let out a perfectly timed and tuned instrumental set. There were no over powering drums, drowned out vocals or repetition, just bare music. The sound was authentic. Once the vocals rolled in these guys blew my preconceptions away. I was thoroughly impressed.