By Esther Sanchez
The competition was as fierce as could be imagined. Believe me…nobody in attendance envied the panel of judges last Saturday night at the Hood Bar & Pizza in Palm Desert. Alas…at the end of the night, a winning group had to emerge and this time around it was La Quinta based rockers, 5th Town.
The prize package on the line was, from the perspective of any upcoming musical act, truly mouth-watering. $1500 cash…$1000 of which was provided by Brad Guth, owner of The Hood Bar and Pizza, another $500 was provided by Tracy Dietlin, publisher of CV Weekly. In addition to the cash awards, 5th Town will receive a day in the studio with award winning producer Ronnie King, a photo shoot with John Charles Fajardo and a music video package from Chip Miller at Desert Cam Winmill Studios valued at $25,000.
Over the past several months, numerous groups participated in preliminary rounds that lead up to one, final, nail-biting night of competition for the crown. Many in attendance were not only impressed by the level of skill, musicality, and diversity featured by the 6 groups of finalists, but also by the panel of judges recruited by CV Weekly.
Celebrated Music Producer, Ronnie King: “I was surprised and impressed by the work that went into bringing about such a credible, well rounded and frankly, legit panel of judges to come out and be a part of this competition.”
Included in said, “legit panel of judges’’ were movers and shakers such as: Arthur Seay who is a member of multiple, world-touring bands including House of Broken Promises and Unida, and owner of Bitter-Sands Studios; local frontman for Murkocet, Richie Jano; music producer Jimi Heil; and former recording studio owner/current owner of PS Organica, Julie Montante. To round out the set we had KCLB radio personality, Todd Killman (TK); filmmaker, Stephen Savage and world renowned drummer/producer with a bio to epic to list, Alvin Taylor.
In the end, the guys and gals from 5th Town were able to seize the number one spot. Hailed for the epic harmonies of their co-frontwomen and beautifully orchestrated ballads, judges compared 5th Town to Fleetwood Mac and had very little criticism in general. As much acclaim as this band has received in the past year, I happen to know that just about every member of 5th Town agrees that every contending group were forces to be reckoned with. The night was a shining beacon of how truly fantastic and diverse our local music scene is and has the potential to become. 5th-Town Co-Frontwoman, Chelsea Sugarbritches: “I think I can pretty much speak for everyone in the band when I say that we are just having a good time and really love all of these bands.”
That being said…This story would not be complete without a mention of every group involved in the finals and they all deserve your attention.
Black Water Gospel
Soulful. Funky. Deep. Those are three of many adjectives I could use to describe the first performers of the night. Consisting of members from multiple local bands…Black Water Gospel is a bit of what one might call a “super-group” that pools resources to get premium results. From a personal perspective, these guys reminded me quite a bit of the band, Muse…a statement I make in the most complimentary of ways. The judges gushed about the rhythm section and one mentioned that frontman Lance Riebsomer’s vocals had somewhat of a, “Josh Homme vibe.”
Lance Riebsomer : “We are happy to work with such amazing bands in an amazing venue. CV Weekly…Love ‘em.”
I would describe to this trio as rockers with a vintage edge. Despite having to overcome some unfortunate, technical difficulties….Sunday Funeral clearly put a ton of creative thought into their set for the finals. They brought to the table some cool graphics, sweet outfits and the addition of a surprise, “B-Team” of super-sexy, blonde backup singers who rocked the house while sporting Andrews Sisters style military costumes. One of the strongest, male vocalist of the night, Justin Ledesema spoke to me in the humble, classy manner for which he is typically known. Ledesma: “We couldn’t believe when we won the last round. I have felt such a glow I have never felt before and it’s been so much fun. Everybody has been so nice and supportive. It would be great to win but it’s really just great to be here.”
Since their debut at a CV Showcase preliminary round, I have heard the whispers about this group of La Quinta High School students who blew everyone’s minds from here to kingdom-come. The rumors were beyond truthful and I was not disappointed in the least. The members of this metal band are between the ages of 15 and 17 years old and one could speculate that most of the guys in Metallica probably could not do what these kids can do at this age. Having been an instrumental band up until the criteria for this competition pushed them to throw in some vocals was a detail that cost them some points. But…in the end, I think the real losers were the staff at the Hood who had to mop up all of the melted faces after Instigator’s set. Look out world! These boys mean serious business and I cannot wait to see what the future will hold for this scrappy, metal band with unbelievable skills.
This Indio based, rap/metal band busted through the gates with the gloves off. Their sound was aggressive, yet tight. Frontman Gabe Perez was one of the most charismatic performers of the night and has proved himself to be quite a showman. They also have demonstrated a knack for writing songs with great, anthem like choruses that make you want to sing along.
Perez: “This has been a really great journey, so far. We have received some good exposure and had a lot of fun but I think the best part has been being able to play and connect with so many great bands.”
First runners up in an extremely stiff competition, The Bermuda brings a youthful edge to an old-school style. This hip-hop trio was clearly in it to win it, and early in the night I was told by a member of a competing group that they were, “The guys to beat.” Being the only act of their kind in a competition such as this…they had a lot to overcome and they did so with style, class and good old-fashioned talent. Their lyrics are clear, meaningful and clever. Their stage presence is as exciting as it is well rehearsed. All that combined with a sheer determination to succeed makes these guys a group worth following. They were awarded $300.00 cash for being first runners up. Group member, Taylor Bentz: “Being the only rap group in a rock competition really rocks. No pun intended.”
On another note…every one of these bands have been nominated for one or more CV Music Awards to be held Sunday, June 4 at the Riviera Resort in Palm Springs. You can go to www.coachellavalleyweekly.com to vote for your favorites. Deadline is Thursday, May 4 by midnight.