7 hours of music, 8 bands competing, and a night to remember for all. That sums up the atmosphere at Aftershock Bar and Grill in Merriam, KS on Saturday night when California Dreaming II kicked off and I can not say I have seen another competition that summed up exactly what Kansas City has to offer in the Independent Music scene. It was the single largest crowd ever to come to Aftershock, and it was the first “sold out” show hosted in that venue. The term “asses to elbows” really did come to a meaning by the end of the night and the amount of people that were there.
There were no “heavy hitters” in this final of the competition. Your staple bands that cover Kansas City and draw huge crowds were not in this game. Bands like Sidewise, Evalyn Awake, Canvas, Surrogate Sons, Restraint, and the others that you know are good and could win this thing, were missing. This was a good thing in the end. Newcomers that are emerging in not only the Kansas City scene, but also Salina, KS, St. Joeseph, MO and others were represented. This was more than KC as it was an excellent representation of the entire Midwest Independent arena. Metal, Rock, Rockabilly, and Hard Rock were all represented, and all the bands did their genres much justice.
In the end the band that made the trip from St. Joseph, Knot Afrayed, took home the gold. Knot Afrayed is an up and coming band that really has it all down when it comes to making the stage theirs. They left nothing behind, and in the end showed what it took to win a major competition like California Dreaming II. They were not alone, and did not run away with the competition by far though.
Yes, Knot Afrayed was the champion in the end and they deserved it, but getting to the conclusion in the judging room was far from given. It was tough, very tough to decide the “judges” winner versus the “crowd vote” winner. From the moment we walked into the room to decide who was the winner, we kept it strictly by the numbers. The points we gave to the bands spoke for themselves, and we were going to let that be the determining factor on who walks away the winner and takes the trip to California to play at Whiskey A-Go-Go representing Kansas City playing at the only venue in the world to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Well, it was not that simple. We tallied the points, and we had a dead tie. Not only did we have a tie between two bands, but the third place band was only behind by 1 point total. The judges were dead-locked between two very great bands for almost 20 minutes before we decided to go to crowd vote. This does not mean “ticket sales” wins that vote, it means the people that showed up cast their ballots on who they thought was the best, and there were hundreds of them, 786 to be exact. Even that did not bring a clear winner as the crowd vote was just 5 off between first and second place. Luckily the crowd picked the same first and second place winners that the judges picked, and in the end Knot Afrayed was crowned.
The level of competition these new bands, and seasoned bands, brought to the stage was unreal. Each were given 30 minutes to perform, and from the second that their time started, to within 1 minute of their time being done, they showed what they had. There were times I forgot this was Independent artists, and felt I was at a National show of bands that everyone knew. I forgot these bands were not known by many, and that they were there playing what they wanted, how they wanted, and with no outside influence except for what their fans had given them in the past. I can not emphasize enough how great it was to see this level of playing ability on that stage.
The bands, a re-review:
The band that got to open the show was The Safeword. There is only one word that describes the feeling you get when you watch this band, and that is, fun. They have the rockabilly genre down. From the clothes they wear, to the non choreographed movements they use on stage, you just enjoy watching and listening to them. With that said, it is clear they are still in development. Mic control (which is a common theme throughout the night) is a major issue with vocals. Timing seemed a little off, but not enough that you would notice if you did not have to look for it as we did. The whole band gets the stage show aspect of things, but I would have liked to see more in-song interaction with the crowd. During the breaks in the songs they did good at bringing the crowd into the show, but once they were playing, there was nothing to keep the crowd hyped up besides the music. I personally think they would have won over the mass of the judging panel with a little better set selection, but that is just me. Would this band be worth seeing, yes. I think they have a lot that they can develop on, but they brought it and left it out there.
There is not enough words to describe what this band brings to the table. They left not only the judges, but the crowd wanting more. Their set list was perfect in organization, but the downfall that hurt them the most was mic control. There are many scream lyrics that are followed up with melody, lots of melody, and what that happens it is a sound engineers nightmare when trying to make a singer sound good that does not have mic control. Breakpoint Method has the look, and the sound, that they are going to make waves in not only the local scene, but the National scene in the future. The stage show they use is polished, and very organized. Some of the harmonies were way off during the set, but not enough that made you look away and write them off. Breakpoint Method I seriously hope I get to see again. These guys flat out rocked it and hard. I would pay to see just these guys perform again, even if they were the only band on the bill.
I am not sure where to put this band as far as genre. They are right in the middle of hard rock, and metal. There is that gray area and I don’t know exactly which way to lean, they sit directly in that middle. When these guys first took the stage, all of us as judges agreed that the singers vocals just hit weird. There was something just “off” (as we described it) about the sound. After discussing it, the vocalists voice was just high, not a bad thing, he just had a higher voice. The band was playing in too low of a key for where the vocalist sings. This I think is what hurt them overall as it just gave a weird feeling to the music. With that said, these guys played. Once you get past the weirdness of key to voice ratio, Razing Paradise has a solid sound that is very easy to let yourself get into. Their set list was kinda screwy again for me as it seemed they peaked half way through their set, instead of at the end where you want to. There was never that wow moment for me though that some of the bands had. I think seriously with some development Razing Paradise will be a force in the Midwest scene for some time to come.
Delirium is unique. What they bring to the stage is 100% theirs. Their crowd interaction was very lacking, but their on stage aspect was enough to keep the crowd with them. The mic control was way off at times, almost to the point of where it made everything sound horrible, but when things were good, they were way good. If Delirium had the chance to do an actual sound check (every band got 10 minutes, no more) then I think they could have rocked that place to the ground, and left faces hurting from getting slammed with music. As a judge though, you have to look past any sound issues that might be present, and judge the band for what they can control. once again, Delirium left the stage without a wow moment. They did not have that trademark moment that you remember them by. I think that was the painful thing in the end with judging these guys is I would have liked to see something that I would not forget them by. Delirium without a doubt deserved to be in the finals this time, and I hope they compete again and try and win it all. If they crack down and develop the whole package just a little more, they will be a huge force as a rock machine.
The Tempest took me completely off guard. I did not expect the show they put together in the 10 minute stage change that they did. When they setup, they did it with style, and the intro they developed for this competition was phenomenal. Mic control totally plagued this band throughout the set. With the style of rock that The Tempest is, mic control is crucial, and is what I believe hurt them in the very end. The other thing that disappointed me was their set was missing that moment also that I could look back on and say, “that’s The Tempest”. These guys (and girls) are young though, and they have come further than I ever expected. The Tempest despite my critisism is for me one of my new favorite bands in the KC area. I can see this group doing huge things that will turn the rock world upside down. The bassist for them is only 9 years old, and it is masked very very well. I did not even notice it was only a kid on stage until almost 1/2 way through the set, THAT is how good these guys are. This is another band that I seriously hope competes again next year, because with another year under thier belt of being together and developing, I think they might have what it takes to not only win this competition, but many many others along the way, if they choose to compete. They might make me eat crow over the next year and rise above all the others and be the new front runner in the Midwest, they are just that good.
Wow, just wow. If you have not seen Collapse hit the stage before, and you are a metal fan, you are missing out. I seriously think that this band had what it took to win the whole competition. The music was tight, the crowd interaction was awesome. They were one of the only bands that used mic control. The stage performance was phenomenal (the vocalist sang through a megaphone at one point, just awesome). There is not a whole lot bad that I can say about Collapse, and as I posted on Facebook after the competition, Collapse is what KC metal should be. So what happened, why did they not win? Rules violations killed this band. I understand to be true metal, you got to say screw the rules at times, but this was not the time to do it. Profanity used was a violation of the rules in this set. In lyrics is one thing, use of it but not in an excessive manner is one thing, but they went over the top and by the rules that we agreed to judge by, we had to take that into consideration in our points assignment. There was also the deduction for starting late (which a couple other bands got also) which hurt them (there was a mic issue, but it was a mic that the band brought, and as the rules were clarified to us, all instruments and other items must be ready and in working fashion at stage time). I would without a doubt pay to see Collapse at any show, any time. They just had the package already and I think they are going to be in the top 10 of metal bands in KC very soon, and recognized as such.
Mute the Idol
MTI is an alternative style band that is very unique in their sound. They have what it takes to move forward and to possibly win this with a little more development, but the whole set this time around just seemed a little off. I am not sure what it was, but it just did not seem to be 100% there. Mic control I believe is what really hurt this band in the end again, as with alternative music, mic control is a must to be able to hit the vocal highs and lows necessary to create that emotion with the alternative style. The set list was perfect starting with what I feel was their weaker music divided throughout the middle, but starting hard, and ending just as hard. This band has what takes to succeed in the alternative genre, and I see them developing over the next year to really push past the others, but for me and the alternative scene, they are kinda mid-pack right now. I would love to see this band again after the vocalist gains the mic control and see what I think of them then. If they fix that one issue, they can be a very, very strong force in their genre.
What else is there to say, they are the champions of this competition. They owned the stage from the second they started, the crowd was theirs to do whatever the band wanted them to, and they rocked it non-stop. Mic control was there, and the vocalist showed he knew what he was doing. The harmonies were off at times (WAY off at times) but when they were on (most of the time they were), they were solid. I do not think there was a single inch of that stage that this band did not use in some form or another. Knot Afrayed has a chemistry that no other band showed. Yes, others have chemistry between each other, but there was something special that you saw in Knot Afrayed. They several moments that I can remember about their set that really took me back, and that I will remember them by. When Knot Afrayed goes to California and plays the Whiskey A-Go-Go, they will represent Kansas City, St, Joeseph, and all the scenes very well. This is another one of those bands that are young, they are still developing, but they have something special that is just them. They are not afraid to take that risk and put it all out there, and you can see that in their show.
In the end it was a great night. There was not a single band that was on that stage that should not have been there. Out of the 65+ bands that competed to get to the finals, these 8 proved why they were there. It was so tough trying to set each one apart, and only pick one winner.
We did our best to judge fairly, honestly, and pick who we thought would represent Kansas City, the scene here, and just how good our talent is. We believe in the end we did that, and hope that the bands that did not win, keep at it. We want to see them all again, and see them perform to a new level. That’s what it is about, pushing yourself to your limit, and then keep going just a little further. Thank you for letting us be part of your night, and we will see everyone next year at (new name) Hollywood Dreaming III!