This was my first NorBay awards and 24-Hour Band Contest, so I didn't know what to expect. In truth, the NorBay contest was the easy part.
We had the winners tallied up and gold record made to give to the winners. (Go here to see who won). Headliners the Easy Leaves (runner up in the country-Americana category) and MC RadioActive (winner in the hip-hop/electronica category) were booked and set to play after the 24-Hour Band contest went down. But how would it actually go down?
Nearly 90 people signed up for the contest and agreed to be teamed with strangers to form a band and practice one original and one cover in, yes, 24 hours. When I later confirmed with contestants the number dropped to about 30. When Friday came for the contestants to meet, the number dropped to 14. Signing up is easy. Showing up is harder.
I collected everyone's name and their respective musical talents on index cards and drew out them out of a hat to form three bands, and then Nathan Prowse of the Live Musician's Co-Op showed them their practice spaces. How many would show up at HopMonk Sebastopol the following night to perform? I had no idea.
Saturday evening the contestants started to trickle into the HopMonk as planned. Well, most of them. There were two five-person bands and one four-person band. One five-piece band became a three-piece after two defections. Another band struggled over clashing personalities and group dynamics. Turns out the contest is more than a showcase of musical talent; it's a social experiment.
But then, amazingly, these groups of musicians who had just met a day ago each hit the stage and each of them killed it in their own way. Their styles were diverse (folksy a cappella, bongos and saxophone; good timey, banjo-inflected rock; and balls-out rock and roll power). In the end the power quintet—Emanon—won out.
Ben Ladomirak, vocalist for the newly minted band, told me had never played a note of music in his life. He just thought the contest sounded cool and signed up. His screamed-though-not-unpleasant vocals and aggressive stage dance fooled me.
After the contest, the excellent Easy Leaves hit the stage and got people dancing. Too bad they only had time for a 30-minute set. After the NorBay Awards were announced, RadioActive did his thing. Accompanied by former NorBay winning DJ Zack Darling, Radio started dropping his rhymes when he saw local hip-hop stylist Pure Powers in the crowd and invited him onstage. I thought for sure their traded rhymes were planned, but no. This was pure freestyle hip-hop flowing before an appreciative crowd.
I didn't expect that, or know what to expect from the 24-Hour Band Contest, but I enjoyed it all.