New wrinkle tonight. It's the Showcase debut of the wildcard round
. The second place finishers* from each semi-final round square off, once again at 9 p.m. at Sticky Fingerz, in a battle to win your vote. Yup, the judges get the night off and leave it to you. Everyone who comes through the door at Sticky Fingerz gets a special ticket. Near the Times
table there'll be a bucket or box or some such for each act. At any point during the night, you'll be able to cast your vote by dropping your ticket into your band's box/bucket/receptacle.
So, yes, it could be simply a popularity contest, though if each of the participants brings a crowd like they did in the semi-finals, they'll all be on even ground. Also, hopefully, a few of you will come with an open mind.
Below, a survey of who's left along with a case for each to win.
, from round one, plays an irresistible brand of garage-style bossa nova. The band's been around for a while, but only since late fall in this incarnation. The five-piece's newness doesn't show except that they're playing new songs you probably haven't heard. With Jen Shaw (vocals, guitar), JP Langston (guitar), Jon Bierman (bass), Damian Thompson (congas), Dan Huff (drums). Why they'll win
: Because, like JT Tarpley said in his recap of round one
, they're impossible not to like. Their arrangements, their hooks, their wardrobe choices (suits last time), Jen Shaw's voice — all pretty much irresistible. Don't discount charm. Bonnie Montgomery
also came from round one. As the highest point getter among third place finishers, she fills a spot Big Boots won, but had to decline (Boots lead singer Mason Maudlin is in Vancouver watching the Olympics). Fresh from several years in Nashville, the White County native writes folk-pop worthy of Music City and sings in a pitch-perfect voice that's a testament to years of studying opera. Why she'll win
: Because Nashville and opera are an affecting combo. And her songs are that good. Plus, she's a new commodity, and who doesn't like to see a new face mix it up? Flash LaRue
, from round three, includes members of Notion and The Poeboy Society and specializes in a winning brand of big tent rock 'n' roll. A lot of their shifting arrangements sound like contemporary indie rock, but at other times, they're full tilt Southern rock. Why they'll win
: Because they're infectious. And even with all the stylistic shifts, they're still the most straightforward rock 'n' roll act in the wildcard round. Everyone loves the rawk. Iron Tongue
, from round four, kept a late night crowd rapt with plenty of stoner-rock riffage, a touch of slow-grind sludge and terrifying, guttural hollering from front man CT. Why they'll win
: Because throwback metal rules. And for sheer spectacle, Iron Tongue's hard to beat.