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Battling on

Semi-finals yield diverse group of competitors to go head to head for top spot in Battle of the Bands

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What: Battle of the Bands finals

When: Friday, March 14, 8 p.m.

Where: Wildwood Pacific Bistro (Whistler Tennis Club)

Tickets: $7

The competition is heating up, as six performers have been selected to compete in the finals for the third annual Sea to Sky Battle of the Bands.

While eight solo artists and seven bands made it to the semi-finals, only three solo artists — Mike McDonald of Whistler, Jeremy Thom of Whistler, and Papa Josh of Pemberton — and three bands — Animal Nation of Whistler, Jon Shrier Band of Whistler and Pemberton, and Slaughter Hollow of Squamish — will compete this weekend.

It seems the judges were able to cut through their own personal music preferences, selecting finalists that cover a wide range of musical genres, from the Jon Shrier Band’s smooth acoustic rock sounds to Slaughter Hollow’s heavy metal riffs.

“I came into this event not knowing whether to expect, wailing cats or polished artists,” event judge Byron James from Echo One Productions said in a press release. “I quickly realized that the musical talent was good quality, which gives me high hopes for the future of music in the Sea to Sky corridor.”

The competition was born three years ago, after organizers for two local community groups dedicated to creating events for young adults — Late & Unique Nighttime Alternatives (LUNA) and Club Shred — realized there were a lot of young musicians in town that needed promotion.

“It was just a small event in the youth centre, where we have the skate ramp as a stage and packed it with bands,” said Kiran Pal-Pross, LUNA Coordinator, “…Then the second year we decided to open it up to Sea to Sky musicians, and it became the Sea to Sky Battle of the Bands.”

The competition has evolved quite a bit since then. This year, they aimed to produce a more professional event, asking competitors to submit bios and demo tapes, which Pal-Pross says has helped to improve the quality of performance and competition.

“The sound was a lot better, the venue was good — it all came together really well.”

Steige “Tall Man” Turner and Mike “Armadillo Slim” Armitage are the men behind the music of Animal Nation, one of the groups competing in the final round. Armitage says they are hesitant to label themselves as a hip-hop or rap group, because “a lot of hip-hop sucks,” and they actually draw their influences from many different types of music.

“It’s very jazz-based, very mellow,” said Armitage, “…The songs are about stuff, it’s not just rhymes.”

They’ve competed in the Battle of the Bands every year, and have definitely seen the competition change.

“Compared to the first year they did it and now, they’re really making it a lot harder for the bands. You have to send in MP3s of recorded songs, a press kit, bio, pictures, a stage plot — I’m sure that definitely deterred a lot of people from entering, so the people that were in it definitely really wanted to be there.”

There’s also a lot more on the line this year. First place winners in both the solo and band category will take home a hefty prize pack valued at over $5,000, which contains a demo recording deal, demo critiques by a national music industry agent and a national producer, the opening spot for a headliner, a professional photo session, air-time and an interview on Mountain FM, and an artist marketing and development consultation deal.

“To have a national agent hear your demo and give feedback on it, to actually contact an agent in the first place is really hard to do, so because of our contacts through these sponsors, we’ve been able to do that for them,” explained Pal-Pross.

Runners up will receive an interview and air-time on Mountain FM’s Afternoon Show, as well as a $50 gift certificate from Long & McQuade. An Audience Choice Award will also be awarded to the band or solo artist who wins the popular vote.

Friday’s finals will be judged by members from REMG Entertainment, the largest urban music concert promoter in Canada; C.I.A. Talent Management Agency, based out of Philadelphia, offering representation for 15 major label and independent rock acts; StageCoach Theatre Arts, a worldwide theatre school; and Echo One Productions, the producer of Campground C.

The 2008 Sea to Sky Battle of the Bands is produced by LUNA and Club Shred, and is sponsored by Echo One Productions, REMG Entertainment, Pique Newsmagazine, Mountain FM, The Palace Recording Studio, Wildwood Pacific Bistro, and Kevin James Day Photography.

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