By Luna Brewer, Electronic Co-Director
Four local bands entered WUTK’s Battle of the Bands to perform their hearts out on Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria stage Sunday March 18, but only one group emerged victorious.
While the competing bands, The Sedonas, Travis Bigwood and the Mourning Doves, Gag Me and High Heat, had their own unique styles, they were all competing for the same reason. The winner would perform on the mainstage at the upcoming Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival in April, receive promotional packages from WUTK and The Daily Beacon, a $100 gift certificate from Rush’s Musical Services, a gig at Barley’s, and 20 hours of rehearsal time at Tri Star Audio.
Fresh from winning a previous battle of the bands at Cotton Eyed Joe, six-man group The Sedonas opened the competition to a packed room and duly served the perfect amount of energy to kick off the night’s events. Singer James Wike served some Red Hot Chili Peppers-like vocals backed by a full band, with three members being percussionists. The group performed several songs from their most recent album “American Paint,” with songs “Live My Years,” “For Once” and “Rebel Hymn.” The group rounded out their set with “Light,” a song from their self-titled EP that featured Wike’s piano skills. Overall, the group showcased their musicianship and Wike lead the performance with his high energy.
Up next was Americana trio Travis Bigwood and the Mourning Doves. Markedly different from the previous band’s hard rock sound, the group served song softer tunes. The band, being more focused on telling stories through their songs, performed “Paw’s Place,” which showcased the group’s beautiful harmonies. The group also performed a cover of the song “Don’t be Cruel.” Despite having slower paced songs, the crowd loved the trio and that definitely increased the groups final scoring as crowd support was included in judging for the event.
Clad in handmade shiny, tasseled dresses, Gag Me took the stage with a large crowd of their friends excited for their performance. The girl-led punk duo didn’t have high hopes of winning, but clearly just wanted to enjoy performing alongside fellow local bands. They amped the energy back up with performances of “Dog Dementia” and one of their newest songs “Anxiety,” which got the crowd to their feet and singing along. Despite the group only forming in the past year, they’ve already collected a good following due to their likeable and sometimes laughable stage personalities. They rounded out their set with a crowd favorite “Ode to Middle School Wet Dreams,” which showcased their hilarious songwriting, amazing drummer and the girls’ great guitar skills.
Ending the night on a high note was rock quartet High Heat. Showcasing their variety in songwriting the group performed 2017’s song “Never Slow Me Down,” “Vilde’s Song,” singles “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Desperation.” The band’s synergy was definitely a high point of the night, but their guitarist Freddy Bahati shined with his amazing shredding and riffs.
Judges Chyna Brackeen, Beth Tomkins, Courtney Bergmeier, and Garrett Thomson deliberated on the four bands with the criteria of originality, musicianship, vocals, songwriting and crowd support. After a few minutes, judges crowned Gag Me, much to their surprise, as the grand prize winner, with Travis Bigwood and the Mourning Doves, High Heat and The Sedonas following in score respectively. However, the good news didn’t end there. WUTK General Manager Benny Smith announced that all the competing bands would also be able to perform sets at the upcoming Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival kicking off on April 6.