At long last, the 2015 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase kicks off this Thursday, Jan. 29, at Stickyz, and will continue every Thursday night throughout February. The deal is this: Four bands perform in front of a panel of judges, and the audience gets a vote, too. The winners of each round then go on to perform at the finals in March. This year's esteemed panel of judges includes local artists and musicians Mitchell Crisp, Derek Brooks, Shayne Gray and Joe Holland (representing the winning band from last year's showcase, Mad Nomad).
Each week will also feature a distinguished local luminary as a guest judge, including Spero, Maxwell George, Bijoux, John Willis, Matt White and Sean Fresh. In addition, there will be hosts from all your favorite shows on KABF-FM, 88.3, who are partnering with us for the first time this year to make the showcase great.
The prize package includes cash, a Riverfest set on the main stage, a spot at Valley of the Vapors, a set at the 2015 Arkansas State Fair, four hours recording time at Blue Chair Studio, a $350 gift certificate to Jacksonville Guitar, a T-shirt package from States of Mind Clothing, a gift certificate to Trio's Restaurant, and a celebration party (and drink named after you) courtesy of Stickyz and Revolution. Past winners range from Ho Hum and The Big Cats to 607 and Velvet Kente.
The show on Thursday starts at 9 p.m. and admission is $5.
Here are your first-round semifinalists:
Little Rock alt-rock five-piece Secondhand Cannons, who play confident, three-chord power pop in the tradition of The Cars, were all set to play last year's showcase when their plans were sidelined by a last-minute medical emergency. They dropped out, but the incident has apparently only strengthened their resolve. They've been scheduled first this year, appropriately, and will start things off as they should've been able to this time last year.
Open Fields make hypnotic, slow-building psych-rock filtered through prismatic layers of reverb and delay. In their own words, they "are green places without fences, the pull between magnets of opposite poles, blank spaces waiting for you to tell what you know, the energy around people whose minds are ready to change and grow."
"What started as a group of three friends dreaming about making music and touring nationally is now becoming a reality," Redefined Reflection claim on their website. The band's influences, they write, include Metallica, Sublime, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, Black Sabbath and, maybe most tellingly, Evanescence. They found their singer, Brittney Waddle, on Facebook a couple of years ago and have gone on to fund their first EP on Kickstarter and to produce a bleak but highly professional music video for a song called "Violent."
Sherwood band Consumers make Ozzfest-ready alt-metal heavy on riffs and Incubus-style esotericism. They wear fake moustaches in press photos and have a song called "We Exist!" On their Facebook page they recently relayed the accurate assessment of a stranger that they sounded "like Mars Volta with Geddy Lee singing." To this, they say, "Too cool!!!!"