It seems everyone these days is competing for the spotlight. From the surreal hit show America’s Got Talent to the karaoke contest down at the local pub, more and more folks seem willing to take to the stage and put themselves through the rigors of public scrutiny. In our wonderfully strange culture, anyone from legitimate hit-makers like Kelly Clarkson to loveable oddballs like Talent’s “Boy Shakira” can rise from obscurity to star-status almost instantaneously. Winners may not always go on to extreme fame and fortune, but they do get to gloat in the congratulatory afterglow that comes with winning first place. Next Friday and Saturday, September 7 and 8, ten local rock acts will be duking it out for the grand prize as Weenis Inc. and Rock 94.5 present “Battle of the Bands” at the Rock Joint in Hayden.
Colleen Smith, proprietress of Coeur d’Alene’s premier body piercing studio Weenis Inc., came up with the “Battle of the Bands” idea as a way to let people know that a lively scene for original hard rock music is thriving here in North Idaho, a fact which may surprise those used to seeing only classic rock cover bands and acoustic singer-songwriters. Smith is a veteran of the local underground music scene, having put together annual Christmas for All punk-rock benefit shows for many years, as well as hosting the occasional mayhem-filled blowout in the basement of her business on 4th Street, which she shares with tattoo studio Inkworld. “I feel like I stood back and watched a lot of these bands grow up” says Smith. “It seems like the rock and metal scene was way quiet for a while in this town, I wanted to bring everyone together and wake it up again.”
Each of the ten participating bands will play 40-minute sets on Friday from 12 to 9 p.m. , with the judging at 9:30. The top five winning acts will return on Saturday at noon for the big “rock off”, followed by final judging at 7 p.m. The band chosen as the best of the best will play again as the headline act at around 9 o’clock. The winning band will receive a dazzling assortment of cool prizes, be immortalized on the “Rock Joint Wall of Fame”, earn some precious airtime on Rock 94.5, and get a whole heck of a lot of high-fives. If they’re really lucky, some big music industry honchos will be sitting in the audience, smoking giant cigars and clutching lucrative record company contracts. You never know.
If you cherish your eardrums and like to sit close to the stage, you may want to bring hearing protection. Pretty much all the bands participating play a very loud form of hard rock. Bands will be judged in three categories: originality, stage presence and overall sound. Here’s the line up for round one:
· Lithium.ID - This Hayden trio have been grinding out melodic and fuzzy punk rock since 2004. Singer Zac and co. built a sizeable local fan base with thunderous but catchy original songs that come off a bit like Nirvana on a Diet Coke buzz.
· LOC – Formerly known as Soul Hammer, this Coeur d’Alene based three-piece’s name is an acronym for “lack of change”, an early song title. Their self-titled 2006 album proved that these metalheads can write some memorable tunes, but it doesn’t really do justice to the skull-rattling noise they’ve been known to whip up live.
· Forthrite – Representing Post Falls is multi-instrumentalist Gary Pool, who with “power screamer” Austin Karn and the three others who make up this progressive metal quintet. “Real music is coming back to the northwest,” says Pool. “We are tired of the noise that people call music.”
· Exit Zero – These guys have been gigging around their hometown of Coeur d’Alene for five years now, and have become one of the area’s most popular hard rock bands. Says drummer Noah White, “"From the dive bars to the Big Easy, we have fun. PERIOD. This is what we live and love to do and I don't see us quitting anytime soon."
· Benign – Born in Coeur d’Alene, but currently based in Spokane, this metal quartet positively pummels the listener with mega-intense high-speed guitar thrash, pounding drums, and guttural voices. Not recommended for fans of Celine Dion or the Carpenters.
· State of Grace – In only a year and half of existence, this Spokane metal 4-piece has opened shows for big name, big hair acts like Firehouse, Warrant, and LA Guns. However, ‘80’s glam is nowhere to be found in the menacingly heavy darkness of State of Grace’s horror rock.
· Dirt Nap – “Martha Stewart, Skeletor, Luke Skywalker, William Hung, and your mom” is the random assortment of folks this Coeur d’Alene heavy metal band claims as influences. If I listen close, I’m pretty sure can hear the Martha-ness, but my mom is too much of a mellow jazz lady to come up with something this hard.
· Bent Penny – Injecting some much needed femininity into the mainly testosterone-fueled weekend is Coeur d’Alene’s only all-girl cowpunk quartet. Their sound is tight and unique, colored with sweetly harmonic vocal lines and a layer of wild violin atop a classically aggressive punk sound.
· Keres – This Coeur d’Alene five-piece rose from the ashes of death metal act Morbid Bliss after that band had bled its last drop of crimson blood, so to speak. Their listed musical influences include bands with names like Dying Fetus, Pig Destroyer, and Decapitated, so that should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from these guys.
· 2 Stones Thrown – Apparently this band is so fresh and new, the only thing known is that they call Coeur d’Alene home. Other details are a mystery, so you’ll just have to come to the show if you want to know more.
In addition to the music itself, the Battle of the Bands promises to bring a festival atmosphere to the asphalt lot behind the Rock Joint. With all the vendors and activities Smith and friends have lined up for the weekend, it’s going to pretty much impossible for attendees to become bored. Pyramid Printing and Skate Lab will set up half-pipes and ramps and perform some impressively death-defying skateboard stunts. The Hive Tattoo Shop will be trekking in from Moses Lake with a booth full of rock-n-roll merchandise like temporary tattoos, t-shirts, shoes, leather accessories, and hair dye in every color of the rainbow. Palm reading will be done by Celtic Moon, who will also be vending an assortment of gifts, candles, and incense. Opal’s Original’s will be on hand with an assortment of unique, handmade beaded jewelry, and there will be a ton of raffles and giveaways by Rock 94.5 and local beer and liquor distributors.
Weenis Inc. will be doing body piercing on Friday only from 1-7, so if you’ve been itching for a bellybutton ring or something even more exotic, here’s your opportunity to have it done by the only fully licensed piercing studio in North Idaho. Most intriguingly, on Saturday from 2-7, Smith will be set up for doing full body suspensions and assorted sideshow acts. (If you’re squeamish, now is the time to put down your toast.) In a full body suspension, the participant receives four to six large hooks through the flesh of their back and then they’re complete suspended off the ground with some hopefully very strong ropes. Smith describes the resultant adrenaline rush as inducing “an altered state of consciousness, enlightenment, a sort-of druggy state of mind.” Well it is cheaper than illegal drugs, and likely not as addictive, but certainly this is an activity only for those brave few with the steeliest of intestinal fortitudes.
Sideshow acts will include the implementation of cheek spears, which is exactly what it sounds like, as well as body corseting, a fetish act wherein someone is squeezed into a tiny garment and its laces are pulled as tight as humanly possible for the supposed enjoyment of the participant. Clearly, this strictly 21 and over “Battle of the Bands” weekend isn’t your ordinary quaint country festival but it promises to be a blast for supporters of local hard rock music, and those with open minds. The Rock Joint is located at 910 W. Hayden Ave. Call 762-2272 for more information.