The Levee is gearing up for its seventh annual Battle of Bands with performances by four or more bands happening every Thursday night from January 19th to February 23rd.
Battle of The Bands contests have been drawing crowds all over North America and Europe since at least the early sixties. By the mid-nineties the contests had become a staple plot device in teen movies, with desperate and deserving young musicians devoting themselves to winning the contest (and often by extension a love interest who will finally see just how worthy of attention they are once they take home the prize).
The cult stoner comedy Bill and Ted’s Bogus Adventure hilariously parodies the classic battle of the bands narrative by having the future of all of humanity rest on the protagonists winning their local Battle of The Bands.
Gene Browne, owner of The Levee, participated in similar competitions at Turner’s Tavern growing up in St. John’s. He sees the Levee’s iteration of the age-old tradition as an opportunity to nurture a sense of community and usher new talent into the St. John’s music scene.
“New bands are usually looking for ways to get out of the garage and onto the stage, and this is a fantastic way to do so…” says Browne.
Since The Levee’s first Battle of The Bands in 2001, the event has steadily gained popularity. This year has the highest enrolment to date with nearly 30 bands vying for a slew of prizes including: 40 hours of recording time from GN Audio, a ZOOM HD Video/Audio Recorder, 100 pressed CDs, and a Music NL Membership.
The winners are chosen through a combination of audience voting and scores from judges. Admission to the weekly events is $10.00 and allows each audience member a vote for their favourite band.
This year’s judges are Browne representing The Levee, Georgie Newman representing GNAudio, and some of the people behind Rock Island Magazine, an online publication dedicated to covering local music.
“This year we are looking at overall performance, creativity, stage presence, technicality, and crowd participation. We are fair and modest in our judging and the competition tends to be really close each year,” Browne said, describing the judges’ criteria.
Browne says the judges are open to a wide variety of genres, past winners have included; The Combine, Sandy Stokes & The Luck, Uneeda, ToShredsYouSay, Make Mean Everything, Steve Vincent, and Devastator.
“…as you can see, it tends to lend support to all types/genres of music across the board – how else can a community grow?!” Browne says.
Despite the coveted prizes, the vibe at The Levee’s Battle of The Bands tends to be more friendly and supportive than fiercely competitive. The organizers reach out to participating bands beforehand and encourage them to use the event as an opportunity to chat with other musicians and have fun.
“They really are fantastic, fair events, with nothing but love to give back,” Browne says.
These events will be a chance to get out of the house on a weeknight during Newfoundland’s bleakest months and take in some of the magic that captured the imagination of ‘90s filmmakers. Shake off your slushy boots at the door and use your vote to throw a little love at some emerging musicians.