Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Rd. 1 winner Bobby. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Editor's note: We'll blame the snow and ice for not getting up a recap of last Thursday's first round until now. But in the meantime, just the announcement that Bobby took home round one has set up a rip roarin' comment thread here. It's worth checking out.Now here's John Tarpley on round one
I’d say Gerard Matthews, Arkansas Times
writer and the night’s emcee, put it best while bidding the audience goodbye after Bobby’s set with a simple exclamation of “holy S***.” He certainly said what everyone else was thinking. Amplified, at that.
took the stage for the final act of the night, playing to a crowd of night owls and those willing to brave the icy roads, everyone expected a great showing but I doubt many realized they were about to see what could very well be remembered as a legendary set. I’m certainly still thinking about it. The younger Tillman absolutely ate the stage and flawlessly needled half an hour of no B.S., no filler lyrics through the beat. If there was a single, polite golf clap in the room, I didn’t see: It was all whoops, fist pumps and “yeaaaaahs” from where I was standing. Eloquence be damned. Bobby shredded it and I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve for the finals.
Bonnie Montgomery. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Now, Bonnie Montgomery
may seem a bit modest in comparison to Cody Belew and Bobby and perhaps a touch minimal next to Stella Fancy, but her shy charm, in music and in character, won over a sizable chunk of Thursday night’s crowd. Her clever, funny lyrics shone when performing solo and her voice — White County by way of Venice — sparkled even more when accompanied by Aaron David Baker
and Mandy McBryde
, who harmonizes only like someone with her bona fide and colorful country music lineage could. Highlight of the set? The kazoo infused “But I Won’t.” Simple and catchy, it’s been running through my head ever since.
Stella Fancy. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Next up was the Showcase premiere of long-standing local favorites Stella Fancy
. For the uninitiated, they’re akin to a crew of grown up Peanuts characters and your cooler older cousins, cranking out garage bossanova after binging on crème de almond and Antonio-Carlos Jobim. Classy, playful and sporting more group dynamic than anyone else in town, they’re a hugely likable band full of really likable folks. In fact, I’ll go on record saying it takes a really miserable so-and-so to dislike this band. Look for them to put up a serious challenge to the other bands in the wild card round.
Cody Belew. Photo by Brian Chilson.
I think it’s safe to say that Cody Belew
managed to take everyone out of their comfort zone. Even for a crowd with a diverse taste for music, his particular brand of American Idol country raised a number of eyebrows and, in the process, elicited a lot of comparisons to….Morrissey? Okay. Belew was backed by a band composed of familiar locals; I assume they were tight, but wouldn’t know, as his voice owned the rest of the mix. Regardless, with a TNN voice and Fox News charm (I promise that’s not meant as a pejorative at all), I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of him finding a supportive audience at Verizon one of these days.
It’s been said a million times before (for good reason) that Little Rock has entirely too much talent focused in such a small town. In that vein, Sticky Fingerz had a wealth of talent focused on its small stage for the first round of the annual Showcase. Bonnie Montgomery, Stella Fancy, Cody Belew and Bobby set one heck of a high bar for the upcoming bands to try to vault. I hope the next rounds’ participants bring their “A” game like these guys did.
Bobby. Photo by Brian Chilson.Bobby. Photo by Brian Chilson.Bonnie Montgomery. Photo by Brian Chilson.Jen Shaw of Stella Fancy. Photo by Brian Chilson.Cody Belew. Photo by Brian Chilson.