Sunday, December 14, 2014

Battle of the Bands

The WannaBeatles were invited to help judge a Battle of The Bands at the Capitol Theater in Lebanon. The event was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 11. 

The WannaBeatles already had a presence at the Capitol Theater. We had played there last year, and were scheduled to do another concert a few weeks after this October event.

As it turned out, only one WannaBeatle was available to participate - Bloggin' Bryan. And so I went to The Capitol Theater representing The WannaBeatles; not as a performer, but as a judge, observing other performers.

In the process, I got to learn more about the Capitol Theater, from speaking to Bob Black, the owner, who has put a lot of energy and attention into beautifying the building since 2010 when he bought it.

Here's how it looked from the street as the evening began.

Art deco lighting in the ceiling - part of the makeover.

Bob told me about the adventure of finding art deco light fixtures that would enhance the classic style of the building. Searching on the internet, he found some antique overhead lamps that had been made in Germany in 1939, then installed in a theater in Oakland, California in 1941. He bought them from the theater in Oakland and had them shipped to Lebanon.

Bob has been working with other marketing people to find ways to put the 450-seat Capitol Theater to use. Amy Harris is the entertainment booker who brought in The WannaBeatles. Melody VanNus is their publicist who came up with the idea for Battle of The Bands. 

Another creative use of the theater was an interactive lecture by leadership coach John Maxwell, who was speaking in Atlanta, while his talk was simulcast in the theater, with attendees paying $99 for a ticket.

Bob is a jazz fan, and has people like pianist Beejee Adair, trumpeter Rod McGaha, and vocalist Jamie Paul perform at the Capitol. He reports Rod McGaha likes it so much he wants to come back to record his live album at The Capitol.

And of course, the Capitol Theater still shows classic movies. The lobby is decorated with classic posters, like this one from Elvis.

The Battle of the Bands was designed to showcase the musical diversity of the region. Four finalists were selected to perform, from a wide variety of musical genres.

On this particular evening, the lobby also had tables for the four artists to display their CDs and other souvenirs. 

Capitol lobby with merch tables along right side
J Collins table
Callie McKinney merch table
Voodoo Prophet merch table

The judges were assigned to a table in the back of the theater, right in front of the sound booth. I was treated to hospitality, in the form of a soda and popcorn.
"Reserved for Judges" and popcorn
hostess Danielle, married to soundman Josh

I was one of two judges. The other one, sitting beside me at the table, was Phillip Craighead, the Mayor of Lebanon. 

We were given forms to fill out for each act, rating performers in a variety of categories like "originality" and "stage presence" with a number from 1 to 6. 

The first to perform was J Collins, a country artist based in Florida. He wears jeans and a cowboy hat, and a denim jacket with his logo on the back. He brought his own band to back him up, and they came to rock. 
J Collins CD cover

J approaches his time onstage like a rock singer, with lots of energetic moves to get the crowd excited. He writes his own material, and works hard, both as a performer and as an independent promoter of his own career. He's already released two independent self-produced CDs of original material. 

The next act up was a complete change of pace, a Christian pop singer named Callie McKinney. Part of her charm was revealed spontaneously when the sound system was being tweaked for a few minutes before she started her first song - she just spoke to the audience like a casual friend, standing behind her piano, never showing any frustration, but never losing her focus about what she was doing there. 

When they finally started, she was unfazed by the delay, and delivered a pure vocal performance over her delicate songs. Callie's three-piece band included her younger brother on drums and harmony vocals, whose long curly locks resembled hers, and evoked a bit of Robert Plant. 
During a break between sets, Paula Hamblen, the manager, introduced the judges, which led to a mention of The WannaBeatles.  
General manager and stage announcer, Paula Hamblen

And they played our video "We Wanna Meet Paul," both to promote our (then) upcoming concert at The Capitol (Nov. 14), and to promote our upcoming appearance at Rippy's in downtown Nashville, across the street from the Bridgestone Arena, to celebrate Paul McCartney's appearance there October 16.

But that's another blog. Or two.

The third act was pure heavy metal, a group called Voodoo Prophet. They had elaborate stage setup, with three banners draped across the full width of the stage.

When they started, they were loud, and tight as could be. Their lead singer growled like Cookie Monster with laryngitis. They executed their metal licks with fanatical precision, even flinging their long hair together in time with the music. 

They ran into the audience with their wireless guitars, and worked at maximum energy to deliver their show and engage the audience. It was quite a sight to see, and they rated high marks for their professionalism.

Photographer Jim Young caught some photos of the evening, including this shot of the bass player from Voodoo Prophet getting into it.

The last act to play was another complete change of pace: The Blues Brokers, a local R&B show band, with a horn section and several singers. 

Their musical focus was classic soul music and some early horn-based rock songs, like Chicago's "Twenty Five or Six to Four." They were good at what they do, and did a great job with the Blues Brothers material, but because they were covering older songs, they lost points for originality.

Phillip and I were aware of our predicament as judges: we were scoring all the acts fairly high, because they were all very professional in their own way. How could we pick a winner?

When Paula, the manager who was hosting the show, gathered our score sheets and prepared to announce the winner, she mentioned how close the scores were. She even paused to invite audience cheering to break a tie between Callie McKinney and Voodoo Prophet. It was very close, but the final prize of $1000 went to Callie McKinney.

Thanks to Bob, Paula, Melody, Amy, Josh, Danielle, photographer Jim Young, the musical performers and all the other folks who help make The Capitol Theater such a special place. We're glad to play there, and glad to support the Battle of the Bands.

Bloggin' Bryan 14Dec2014

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