The final voter based round of Billy and Renee's Battle of the Bands took place on Thursday, March 23rd, to yet another packed house. This round was special in the way that there was a spot for a call back band to be allowed a second chance at reaching the finale on March 30th. The band that received this coveted spot was Madcow due to the amount of fans they brought out and what was contributed in their week 3 loss. Another thing to note about this round was that there were two very young, talented bands who are looking to make a splash here in Tulsa.
Manta Rays kicked off the night. These guys proudly represent Bixby, Oklahoma (my hometown). This group of young men are also one of the two bands I just spoke of. Their youth, however, played well in their favor as they brought as much energy as their age would suggest. This band is a groovy, fun, tight group with a sound most would label as indie. But they produce this sound and have a stage presence that does not come off as a "too cool to be here" attitude many indie bands seem to have. The closest main stream band I can compare them to is The Strokes. Jackson Gillett pulled down double duty as both the lead singer and rhythm guitarist throughout their set. His unique vocal stylings
meshed very well with the timbre and tone of their music. He never missed a beat while laying down rhythm and having to sing, which as any musician can tell you, is an ability that even some seasoned players struggle with. His stage presence was also fantastic as he displayed all the traits you look for in a front man of a band. Britton Gregory kept pace and added those in between notes that make for a great bassist in the making. His groove added a flavor in the mix of their music that was greatly appreciated by this writer. Their lead guitarist Parker Vay played riffs and scales that really pull your attention toward him when he lays fingers to frets. And when given the chance to show off, he pulled no punches and really made the most of the time in the limelight. And finally, Ronnie Bunn on drums didn't miss a beat. His prowess on the skins were evident as his transitions were in the perfect spots and his timing with the bass kept everyone's feet tapping and even inspired some patrons to dance. After this performance, Manta Rays are now a band on my radar and they should be on yours too!
The next band to light up the night was Madcow. These guys got their call back from Billy and Renee's and they made the most of the opportunity to showcase that they were not a one set wonder. This time they came prepared with yet another A-game performance and were even tighter than last time they played. This is impressive considering they only had one week to prepare a full new set, practice it and bring it to the stage. The set they played at this show felt somewhat more punk inpsired. High energy, fast paced and well executed. Joel showed what an old school punk he is too. Getting all around the stage, portraying the sort of energy and presence you'd see at a Sex Pistols or The Clash show back in the day. His leads left patrons at the bar wanting for more each time as he wailed all around the neck of the guitar in each song.
The guitarist his opposite, Robert, while more reserved in the way he portrays himself on stage is no slouch on the guitar either. His rhythm work was put to the test this go round as the pace hit speeds that wou
ld make a lesser rhythm guitarist miss fingers on the frets or hit wrong chords. But Robert kept right along and made his work on the guitar look easy the whole way through. Bassist Alex brought intensity to this show as well as he worked the crowd from the right side of the stage. I already noted last article how well he plays along with the drums to bring the noise that Madcow will hopefully be known around town for soon, but this time he got up on the stage speakers and engaged his audience and really got them into the show. Cody made great strides in the way he presents himself on stage too. Last week he seemed somewhat bashful towards looking away from the stage towards his fans and the bar patrons. This time he made it a point to look outwards and not keep himself in the shadows. It's obvious that he's learning his role as frontman and learning it quickly. And his vocals were on point once again. His range was all over the spectrum through the set. His future with this band looks secure and bright. And Cory came in with the bang this showing. Faster, harder, tighter. He had to match the energy the Joel was bringing and he answered the call with breakneck double bass notes, snare shots that bordered on gun fire, and rolls that would make any real drummer break into a smile. It wasn't a night and day difference in performance for this band from last week to this one. But it absolutely showed how much they really wanted to win this contest.
The next up was Left Strait Down. I'd never heard this band from here in Tulsa before this performance. But I wish I had. They also brought a great following out. From the get go they broke out something no one else had done. Their lead singer Scott came out with a harmonica in the first song and played it masterfully. It was a nice addition and something you just get to see very often anymore. Scott had a vocal range and styling that I can only describe as all of the best parts of 80s rock. The skill to change from singing higher notes to lower notes flawlessly and without vocal crack or squeak is immensely difficult and Scott showed how capable he was of doing this in multiple songs. Their whole set seemed bass driven and Jeff was the one in the driver's seat handling it all like a true rock star.
Typically in the hard rock genre the only time you notice the bass is when they hit the wrong note. This was not the case for Jeff as his talent flashed through brilliantly and you could feel his bass in your chest as he killed it on stage. And Tommy and Kyle both were amazing on the guitars. Neither one of them shied away from taking the role of lead guitarist and swapped back and forth on this duty throughout the set. Both of them obviously knew their way around a guitar and really were astonishing as they had memorable riffs along with marvelous solo work each song. J-Dizzle on the drums did his work incredibly, ensuring that the hard feel the band was bringing kept it's timing. The work he was putting in back there did not go unnoticed and was absolutely wonderful. Rolls that transitioned into choruses were timed perfectly, the hard crashes on cymbals were impeccably placed and he never faltered in any area as far as I could see. One really great thing about this band is they didn't fall into the hard rock genre's trap of having songs that all sound the same. There was an easily observable uniqueness to each of their songs and each song seemed to encompass a slightly different rock genre without losing the fell they seem to be trying to achieve.
The fourth act was the band Breakfast. Another one of our homegrown Tulsa bands, these guys were truly a lot of fun to watch. This band is punk to the core. With their fast paced tempo and catchy lyrics they hearken memories of a band that sounds much like the second coming of The Ramones. I would be remissed if the first thing I didn't mention about a punk band was the drums. Blake is not only a great drummer,
but one funny guy. At the end of the set, he "trashed" his drum set in a comical way that anyone who has to buy expensive equipment would understand. But his antics were worthy of his skill. Drum rolls galore, heavy use of the toms and continuously having to change tempos without missing a beat looked like they were just another easy day of drumming for him. Their bassist Bryan kept the high energy tempo and hit the notes to progress from one chord to the other with immaculate precision. Reed played both guitar and lead on vocals. His vocal work was fun, sounding as if to not take itself too seriously while not lacking in quality during the performance. His personality on stage really flowed through his voice. His work on guitar didn't suffer as he played either, even taking lead a few times to impressively show his skillset is in no way limited to just one aspect on guitar. The lead guitarist J.C. left quite an impression on the crowd as his lead work was quite memorable and the type of lead work that young guitarists look to imitate when learning to play lead guitar themselves. His ability on guitar took center stage whenever his number was called. Their song "Screwdriver" got a favorable response from the crowd and lit the stage up not only because it was a great song, but because of the performance the band displayed while playing this song.
The final band to take the stage was the other young band I noted. Nokturnal Winter is a self described "Epic, Anguishing, Black Metal Armageddon". When you put something like this on your band's page, you best back it up. And from the moment they took the stage until they exited, they most certainly did. Anyone who listens to this style of black metal knows what a technical nightmare it can be for a musician. But even though the members of this band are very young, they are displaying all the right signs that they can really do something in this genre. In a genre where bands like this are a dime a dozen, this band is a $100 bill. The first time the members of We Are Tulsa Music got to see these guys was in late fall of last year. They weren't bad then, but they've made leaps and bounds in many aspects since then and are a fine example of the young talent that needs attention here in Tulsa. Abbadon Nokturnus has the duties of lead, rhythm and vocals in this band. And he pulls every single one of them with the gusto and competence of a seasoned veteran. He never once broke his character on stage, which can be easy to do when your young and your band has a gimmick they are trying to pull off. His voice fit the music to a tee and his inner vocal growling was on point. His guitar work shows how much work he is putting in to ensure that the heavy feel they are rocking out. His rhythms are heavy, his lead work was fantastic and appropriate to the genre. Their bassist Valek really showed his chops on bass as well. Moving up and down the neck of his guitar when the tempo sped up like his string were coated with butter. Hitting all his spots and everything in between. His bass set as low as it was really vibrated the bar to its core and you could feel it in the soles of your shoes as he played. And finally their drummer Tormentium rounded out this group of youngsters. His double bass work has greatly improved since last we saw him and now it looks like it comes as naturally to him as walking does.
He kept the feel of the music as heavy as possible with a mixture of working that as well as putting down heavy hi hat during the set. Timing is of utmost importance in their style of playing and Tormentium did not disappoint in this department. His set went unblemished by a missed cymbal, snare or roll. Nokturnal Winter put themselves out there 100 percent in this show and left no doubt that they are constantly improving and worthy of being booked into any metal show in Tulsa.
By the end of the night, there could only be one winner though. And the band to take the final spot in next weeks finale was Breakfast. A big congratulations to them. The dollar total raised that night was $330. That puts the pot for the finals at $1,013. The winner of the finale on March 30th will receive 75% of this along with $500 of recording time. 2nd place will take 25% of the pot. The finale will also no longer be a fan vote but voted on by special guest judges who will remain a mystery until the night of the show. In the finale are Nameless Society, Dixie Wrecked, Alterblood and Breakfast. It is exciting to see such a diverse group make it into the finale.
Let this also be said: This whole event had more than just the purpose of winning. It was a great chance for our local scene to display how diverse, talented and fun the Tulsa music scene is as a whole. Win or lose, we are all so glad that all of the bands who participated did so and hope that future events like this will draw as great a response as this event did. Those who did not make the finale, hold your head high. You've greatly impressed the writers of We Are Tulsa Music and we are proud of each and every one of you.