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Jun 22, 2009

Even though I'm frequently a judge at such things, I have this love-hate relationship with the typical "Battle of the Bands" competition.  The one redeeming factor is that I get to see a lot of acts this way.  I've seen some comically bad acts, and I've seen some acts that make you think, "What are these guys doing playing a battle of the bands for fifty bucks!?  They should be touring, at least regionally."  On some level, I like all that stuff.  The problem is, most of the time the contest is just a thinly-veiled audition to see which bands bring in the biggest crowds or have the most audience appeal -- favoring bands with the longest track record, cutest singer, or best time/date slot in the draw.  Rarely do they have anything to do with and objective assessment of musicianship, showmanship, or dogged determination to get up there and give the audience a satisfying musical experience.   Ask yourself, would any of the top-selling, most-groundbreaking, influential artists of the past 20 years have a chance in hell at winning American Idol?  Could you see Nirvanna, Tool, or Green Day up there defending themselves to Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul?

Tonos Triad is a perfect example of such a band that I met at one of those aforementioned contests I was judging.  The cards were stacked against them from the start.  Not only did they draw the short end of the stick and end up last on the bill that evening, but they were also up against other great acts that had large followings and brought dozens of their friends -- to say nothing of the fact that the Triad's music isn't exactly what one would expect to hear in a blue-collar sports bar (and a two-night booking was one of the prizes up for grabs that night).    

So you have to picture the scene:  It's 11:00 or so on a Monday night.  Most of the crowd is gone, and I've been drinking beer and listening to bands for the past four hours (hey, there's only so much even I can take in one sitting ... particularly when I'm sitting on a very uncomfortable bar stool).  Our "judges' scores" are, for the most part, tallied.  The crowd has long-since cast their "audience votes" for whatever band they came in with and left.  We're all tired and just waiting to go home.  Suddenly, in walk three very serious-looking guys that I figured must have just come off the set of Reservoir Dogs II.  One of them whips out an expensive classical guitar; one is hauling a large upright bass; and I can't figure out what the third guy is doing, but he's carrying what looks like ... luggage?  Honestly, my first thought: "Pretentious.  After all, this is just a small-prize battle of the bands in a neighborhood bar on a Monday night.  They can't be any good, otherwise I'd have heard of them before."  

Within a half-hour, I'm introducing myself and begging them to be on Indy In-Tune so I can tell everybody about them.

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