Music-lovers held fast to their mocktails at the Wildwood Pacific Bistro on Friday evening, as they watched six groups duke it out in front of a sold-out crowd for top honours at the Sea to Sky Battle of the Bands.
It was a tough competition, with performances by six talented local acts.
In the solo artist category, Mike MacDonald of Whistler, Jeremy Thom of Whistler, and Papa Josh of Pemberton played back-to-back sets, impressing judges with their wide range of vocals and songwriting abilities, while Animal Nation of Whistler, the Jon Shrier Band of Whistler and Pemberton, and Slaughter Hollow of Squamish squared off shortly afterwards in the group category.
The performances covered a wide range of musical genres, ranging from Slaughter Hollow’s heavy metal riffs, to the Jon Shrier Band’s smooth acoustic rock, to Animal Nation’s hip-hop-inspired lyrical prose. Music industry experts Mike Caparella, Hilary Wight and Neil Shankman did the judging.
But only two acts could come out on top, and in the end, MacDonald and the Jon Shrier Band emerged victorious.
MacDonald took the stage with his harmonica and acoustic guitar, wowing the crowd, and judges, with his new song, When You Go, and a bluesy, more soulful song, entitled, She’s Right Trendy. Finally, he finished off the performance with his own special version of a love song, You Kill Me.
The judges commented that MacDonald seemed very comfortable in front of an audience, and was able to offer a “polished performance” that draws on a variety of influences, including rock, folk and Latin music, with an end result that reminded them of “whiskey-soaked nights.”
The ground reverberated with the sound of deep bass, as the Jon Shrier Band, which formed only five short months ago, had audience members nodding their heads and tapping their feet to the rhythm of Follow and Rollercoaster Ride.
Two community groups, Late & Unique Nighttime Alternatives (LUNA) and Club Shred, created the Sea to Sky Battle of the Bands three years ago, after realizing there were a lot of young musicians in the region who needed promotion.
The first year, the event was held in the youth centre, where they used the skate ramp as a stage. So many performers came forward that the next year, they decided to expand and open the competition up to musicians throughout the Sea to Sky corridor.
This year, the battle got a bit more intense, as organizers upped the ante, aiming to create a more professional event. They asked competitors to present demo tapes and a press kit, complete with a bio and pictures. In return the competition offered an impressive prize pack, valued at over $5,000, to the winners. The prizes include a demo recording deal, demo critiques by a national music industry agent and a national producer, the opening spot for a headliner, a professional photography session, air-time and an interview on Mountain FM, and an artist marketing and development consultation deal.
The runners-up in each category, Slaughter Hollow and Papa Josh, will also receive an interview and air time on Mountain FM’s Afternoon Show, plus a gift certificate from Long & McQuade. The Audience Choice Award also went to Slaughter Hollow.