So you want to make a band,
huh? Well, you can go about it one of two ways...
1) You can rally up some of
your friends, learn how to play some music, go out from venue to venue,
starting small and working your way from bars to county fairs to dance
halls to mega-arenas within the scope of five years, all the while
signing a recording contract to sell yourself out to the RIAA in order
to boost sagging CD sales, then fade into obscurity...
2) You can get on this show.
Last summer, the producers
of "American Idol" sent out the call to bands and band-wannabes to see
if they had what it takes to become The Next Great American Band, hence
the title of this series. There's only one rule... There ARE no rules.
Any age, any style, any... umm... well, you name it. Hell, you don't
even need instruments!
Sixty bands... Three
judges.. one chance. We have the stage. Do you have the chops?
Let's meet our motley crew.
Dominic Bowden is the host of "NZ Idol" and their version of "5th
Grader". He's gone halfway around the world to our base camp in Las
Vegas to find an incredible band. The panel of judges: Dicko (nee: Ian
Dickson), a judge on "Australian Idol". He's helped launch the careers
of Pearl Jam and Ozzy Osbourne. Sheila E (she of "The Glamorous Life")
is the sensitive, nurturing, but not-gon-take-no-mess judge. She's
worked with Prince and Ringo Starr. Rounding out the three is John
Rzeznik, frontman of The Goo Goo Dolls.
First up, the Sizzling Happy
Family from Cunningham, TN. They got their name presumably from a
Chinese dish. They got their sound out of old-fashioned rock'n'roll.
This is basically their one last shot at greatness. Even with the
greatest guitar hero in Cunningham, TN, it's nothing we haven't heard
before. Their gimmick: playing the guitar with a chicken. The judges
like it. Dicko says no, because they can't sell records. Sheila and
Dicko immediately go at it. So yeah, John is the decider. After their
defense "We have better songs". Johnny? "If you had better songs, you
should have played 'em"
It's a no for the flying
chicken. One down, 59 to go.
Next band is Tres Bien from
LA. They were raised on LPs and sounds of the 1960s, i.e. the Kinks and
the Zombies. Their song is an original called "Your Graceful Soul". They
had me until they started singing. John likes the song and the stage
presence. Dicko thought it was great. It's a three-way sweep and Tres
Bien is one step closer to becoming "The Next Great American Band".
Time for what we call at the
net, "The Obligatory Reject Reel", featuring... The Dirty Marmaduke
Flute Squad! What about Light of Doom from San Marcos, CA, a band of
shirtless kids... (Hatergram:
BLEAGHGHGAHGAHGAHGAHGAHGAHGAHAGAGGHGHHGHGHGHGGHH!)... Yeah. Their
biggest fans: their parents. Their influence: 80s Metal, ninjas, boobs,
and explosions. I think they're more of a stage band than a recording
band. I will give them the concession that the guitarist can really wail
on their cherry axe. Sheila thinks they'll be amazing in a couple of
years. John likes the stage presence. Dicko think that it's a bit too
cute right now and gimmicky. He says no. Sheila says yes. Johnny
says... Oh just say it already... He wants to say no, but Sheila won't
let him, so they get a pass... Begrudgingly.
Next is the Hatch from
Brooklyn. They do "Use Me" by Bill Withers. I hope this is a good cover.
It really is, but the thing just sits there. I'm wishing that they
could've done more with it. Johnny thinks the voices are good, and the
frontman is "a movie star". Dicko thinks the default is set of "boy
band", "Maroon 3.5". Sheila wants to see the lead guy's eyes. And it's a
Noon on day 1, and the temp
outside is a staggering 110. Being a former singer in what you'd call "a
boy band", I can tell you from experience that this is murder on the
throat. Xenovibes out of Texas are murder on the ears. Ballroom Dancing
out of Tennessee are murder on the everything-else. Disco Stu... New
Wave... and polka? Forget about it!
Next is Big Toe, a hard
rock/vocal harmonies band. "Something that feels good, but is a little
bit dangerous." The lead singer/bassist plays guitar with his feet (he
was born with no arms). He says he isn't a guy to feel sorry for. He
thinks that it's hard to play "Stairway to Heaven" with the trombone.
Like the singer said in the bio piece, I don't even notice that he's
playing with his feet. Dicko, on the other hand, thinks that it doesn't
sound recordable. Sheila thinks that it's a little raggedy. John agrees.
Big Toe gets cut.
Next up, CJA of Mesa, CA.
Piano and strings. It's different, I'll give you that. And, like Tres
Bien earlier, they had me until the singing.
Austin, Adam, and Ashley
made up the Clark Brothers. The brothers stayed in, practicing what they
were born to do... Play tent revivals. Their parents are traveling
evangelists from Nashville. They really wail on "This Little Light o'
Mine." And I would kill to learn to play the Dobro like that. Dicko says
that this is what he was hoping to see. Their instincts will see them
through to the main rounds. John and Sheila agrees. John wants to see a
drummer and a bass, but hey, they don't need it. They're going through.
Day 2 begins... and
everyone's bright-eyes and bushy-tailed... Okay, not. First band takes
an extended "brain burrito" breakfast. They're the Zombie Bazooka Patrol
from Nashville, TN. They're "real zombies". They hope to melt Johnny
Rzeznik's heart like they melt him. They sound more like Corky & the
Juice Pigs. At least their music is in sync. They're more of a YouTube
novelty band than anything else, though. The judges were surprised,
calling it a "fabulous waste of time." Sheila and Dicko give'em a pass.
Chicago's Dot Dot Dot is
next. They've been together for five months, performing three times.
They go with "Always Something There to Remind Me" by Burt Bacharach.
They look like a band. They play like a band. They put their best punk
foot forward. Reminds me of Green Day-lite, though. The two ladies did a
great job. They have a very awesome look. The arrangement was great.
Note of caution from Dicko: they're going to have to prove themselves.
Dot Dot Dot is in in in.
Northmont's Ward Bell and
Justin Tana promised their kids that this was going to be a
make-or-break gig for them. And this is their last go at it. This Dayton
band may have life in it yet. They cover "Long Day" by Matchbox Twenty.
Dont' look now, but Ward Bell is climbing the scaffolding while singing.
John sensed some desperation. He's not sure that they have the
musicianship. Sheila thinks that they're playing loud and that Ward is
carrying the band together. It's not over for them as Dicko gives them
one more chance later this week.
So as Northmont tries to
bring it together, we meet another band who's brought together by
tragedy. The Muggs from Detroit had a member (Tony) with a hemorrhagic
stroke. They stuck by their fallen comrade. Even though he was
half-paralyzed, he learned to play bass with the keyboard. It turned out
for the best, as they can really come together in the clutch. The judges
like the Muggs. "Guys like you stop the music biz from turning into the
fast food industry."
But it seems like they're
the only true rock outfit to make it in day 2... until Fifi LaRue, the
Gothic Killer Clown of Rock'n'Roll from Hollywood... with Darth Maul on
the drums, ladies and gentlemen! Definitely not KISS... John calls them
on the KISS-lite. "It wasn't heavy metal. It was just... heavy." Sheila
thinks it's scary and horrible.
Next is a big band outfit,
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. They were one of the first bands off
the bus at 5:30 in the morning of Day 3. I'm a big big band geek, and
imagine how thrilled I was to see this sort of thing embraced. That
said, it was a far cry from Brian Setzer, but they're on their way. The
judges seem to agree. John thought they were great with stage presence.
Sheila thought it was great. Dicko thought it was okay, but Denver has a
problem with stealing hearts and breaking hearts, comparing him with Ned
Flanders. Still, it's a pass from all three.
Next up, a band that is
completely out of this world... Zolar X. One of them is from Plutonia...
One of them is from Lumin... and I'm sure the third is from Iowa
somewhere. I don't know. They play an original, "Retro Rocket." And I'm
waiting for them to rocket on outta here. "That sounded more like the
sound of Uranus."
Next, Nashville sends up
Sixwire, an edgy country/rock outfit. They put an album out, but it
didn't really do well, so ... yeah, you can call this a comeback. Their
song, fitting... "Good to Be Back". I'd take this over Rascal Flatts,
really. Dicko says that they are amongst the best in the contest so far.
Judges overwhelmingly take Sixwire back.
Cliff Wagner & the Old #7
are a bluegrass outfit from San Pedro, CA. Dicko wants to hear a cover
that "isn't written by a 70 year old raccoon hunter." They agree to do a
cover of "Like a Virgin". John says that the music flows from them.
Sheila agrees. But is America ready for a bluegrass band? All three send
them through along with LA's The Likes of You (pop/rock), Red Halo from
Jasper, AL (pop/rock), Lexicon from LA (rap rock), and Blackbird from
Georgia (Southern rock).
Next up, Philly club
regulars and church-going bandsters Franklin Bridge. They bring their
rock'n'soul with an original, "Incredible". Standing O from the judges
says it all.
After the break, Arlington's
440 Alliance gets 404'ed after a string arrangement of the "Knight
Rider" theme. The Lords of the Highway from Cleveland are derailed after
shaking it up and down. The doo-woppers of the Van Dells (from Cleves,
OH) fell as well. And after that bit of band hell, we have to do some
praying with a gospel quartet, Heaven Bound from Buffalo. And... oh God,
they're off key. Fall back, ladies. Dicko calls it "a semifinal in a
Can the ladies of LA's
Rocket rock it? They think that being in a band is like being in a
family. They all live in a house in East Hollywood. They want to break
stereotypes of girl bands. So far, with their cover of the Ramones'
"Blitzkrieg Bop", the only thing I can see is a stereotype of a band
that'll do commercials after a year. That was Joey Ramone-lite. Dicko
doesn't think that they're the best musicians or the hottest chicks, but
he would sit in a bar all the way through. John digs it. They're
It's getting close to the
end for the auditions. Mezcal from Visalia, CA are out to impress ONE
judge in particular... Sheila. She's an inspiration to their Latin
flavor. And it shows through their performance, as they are tight on the
phythm sections and the harmonies. ... On the other hand, they're
lacking a little cojones. Oh, and get this, Sheila had to go up on stage
and show'm how to do it. John thought it was lacking guts. They pass.
One band left... It's
Northmont. Will they take advantage of this second chance? They
spent the last of their money trying to get better in one night. They go
Is "Had Enough"... enough?
John likes the band, but wants a heavier sound. Dicko thinks that Ward
is one of the better front men. The band is letting him down. Sheila
thinks that they have to work on tone. Dicko says no. Sheila says yes...
Johnny.... "I gotta say no." Unfortunately, it's the end of the line for
Northmont. At least in this competition.
But for these 12 bands, the
Light of Doom
The Clark Brothers
Dot Dot Dot
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra
Cliff Wagner and the Old No. 7
The Likes of You
Next week, they perform for
your votes. Now get off!