For all those who have complained that the age and supposed musical likes of the judges keep a “modern” or hard-rock band from winning in the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, the results of Feb. 17 proved otherwise.
Temper Effect showed that a Korn/Limp Bizkit/Godsmack kind of growling, new metal will wow the judges as much as any style, winning the fourth semifinal of the original music Showcase last Thursday at Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom. Fact is, Temper Effect had the best songs to go with the best musicianship and showmanship.
Beau Nixon and the Big Machine finished second, done in somewhat by ending their set with a fair cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” The judges probably would have overlooked the cover had it been as “kick ass” as promised, since the rest of Beau’s set was a solid display of old-fashioned rock’ n’ roll, and since the versatile performer has an obvious penchant for Robert Plant – one need only look at Nixon’s coiffure.
Local veterans the Boswells and young, modern trio 30 Percent Grey also entertained well. But Temper Effect was much the best on this night. One judge scored the band a perfect 60, while three others had Temper Effect scoring 51 points or higher out of 60 possible points (the cumulative scoring system is based on 15 points for song quality, 15 for originality, 10 for musicianship, 10 for showmanship and 10 for crowd response).
For drumming, one will not see any better locally than what Jerry Halpain was delivering for Temper Effect last Thursday. Guitarist Marcus Boyce and Chad Hard kept the leads and power chords coming. And bassist Nick Williams, who has sat in for a number of local bands, including Evanescence before that band hit it big, led the thumping and power choreography behind vocalist Devin Castle, who had to be doing irreparable damage to his cords during a 30-minute roar. Castle, who moved back from Florida to join Temper Effect, was a mild-mannered, gracious performer backstage, so unlike his on-stage demeanor. Temper Effect also has some of the coolest-looking equipment to grace the stage.
The “age” criticism directed at our judges over the years never washed. We’ve always sought a well-rounded array of judges, and this year is no exception. Two of our judges are regular performers on the club circuit, one in a top cover band, another in a bluegrass band but who has played all kids of music. Alltel Arena provides a judge each week who is used to hearing all kinds of acts come through there. Magic 105 usually sends a well-versed music lover each week. And Tim Jones, who has judged the contest for years, books many of the acts who play at Riverfest. If there was a thought that the graying host and sometimes-judge (me) seemed a little removed from modern music, obviously the critics haven’t seen what’s in my and my wife’s CD players lately. For that matter, our 3-year-old son may be the world’s youngest Green Day fan.
Screaming is one thing, but when you can detect melody amid all that emotion that emanates from new-metal rockers or rappers or other new stylists, it seems to register with music lovers. The fans who were at last year’s Linkin Park show, for example, weren’t just made up of teens, early 20-somethings or parents forced to tag along.
Temper Effect joins blues band Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain, modern rockers the Odds and heavier rockers Further Down in the finals Friday, March 4, at Juanita’s. Showtime is 10 p.m. and admission is $6. KMJX-FM, Magic 105, is a co-sponsor of the event, and Tom Wood of Magic will join the other five judges for the final. Yes, it will be an extremely diverse show and is very much worth attending to see some of the best original music this state has to offer.
The winner on March 4 will receive a $300 gift certificate from Jacksonville Guitar, $200 in food from Trio’s, recording time from Blue Chair Studio, an ice chest full of Red Bull, a guaranteed spot in Riverfest as well as on the Peabody-Little Rock’s summer slate of concerts, and a photo shoot from Times photographer Brian Chilson.
PM Today, a young Jacksonville modern rock band that performed during the Showcase’s first week, attended a talent showcase few weeks back at New Orleans’ Hard Rock Cafe. The group’s average age is 16, and we’re told that the experts there were saying pretty much what our Showcase judges felt on Jan. 27: “Keep this thing together, because you’re only going to get much, much better in the next two years.” PM Today usually gets a playing date at Vino’s Brewpub; check them out.
Also, two bands who missed by a single point getting into the Showcase finals are worth hearing if you haven’t heard them yet: The Frup, a trance-rock-jam band from Arkadelphia, and local jammers FreeVerse are excellent examples of the great music available in our back yard.