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8:57 p.m. - October 26, 2007
The Next Great American Band
Last week, I saw the premiere of Fox’s Next Great American Band, and while the ratings were so-so, I thought the concept had promise. They selected 60 bands and tried to cut it to the 12 best. They probably succeeded. Of course, they had some oddballs for effect (it wouldn’t be a Fox reality show without some kooks), but they did get at least 10 or 11 of the best 12.

(They did leave off the Zombie band – who was pretty good).

They had some “drama”, when this band Northmont had a second chance, but they still stunk. The guitarist was lured to the states from New Zealand, all to play in a sub-Creed turgid quasi-hard rock sensitive emo band with no originality.

The format is that all 12 bands play an original and then a cover. This week, they were covering Bob Dylan songs. Um, yeah, Dylan. I don’t think any of them will be doing “Bob Dylan’s #115th Dream”, “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues”, or anything off of Self Portrait. Or maybe they could surprise me.

This is being written semi-live. Well, I’m writing in fits, starts and spurts during the show.

PS – Are you already sick of the promos for Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee movie? Anyone?

Denver & The Mile High Orchestra - They’re a classic big band – in the mode of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Just a bunch of young upstarts in matching old time suits playing swing and jive. They’re very good and energetic, but that genre limits your artistic growth and development, so they’re going to run into a rut somewhere. They covered “Freight Train Blues”, and their original was pretty good. But it all sounds the same, really. That’s why I sold back the BBVD album - two tracks are all you need!

The Hatch - They are Maroon 5 Minus One! During the audition show, they covered an old Bill Withers tune and were OK. Here, they do a way-too-cheery version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. They’re polished and professional, and made it power pop. That’s not a power pop tune no matter what you do. They didn’t name their original, but they tried to ROCK and it was just pretty boys making polite noise. However, they will do well in this competition because of the pretty boy factor. They’re harmless – and the little girls understand.

Light Of Doom - A prepubescent metal band. Yeah, that’s not really THAT much of a novelty – I mean, I’ve heard of things like that here and there. So 12 and 13 year old boys playing metal isn’t “OH WOW LOOK AT THIS!” for me. Of course, being metal they did “All Along The Watchtower” for their Dylan tune. Their original was “Eye Of The Storm”, where they pretty much emulated Iron Maiden, except their sound wasn’t clean, and a vocalist that young really can’t be convincing as a metal front man. The judges thought they needed to put shirts on – and I agree.

The Likes Of You - The front man put this group together as a solo vehicle, but now THEY’RE A BAND. He opened for Hall & Oates, but of course that’s Hall & Oates NOW, not back in the day. As for this group, they’re just safe and predictable, except the singer has an annoying habit of going into falsetto for no apparent reason except to show that he can do it. They did “Blowin’ In The Wind” very earnestly, and an original called “Love & Gravity”, which was earnest rock for frat boys. Johnny Rzeznik liked them, but of course the Goo-Goo Dolls aren’t exactly cutting edge, ya know.

Rocket - The all chick band. Sheila E loves ‘em, of course. During the audition they did a half-assed job of “Blitzkreig Bop” and they almost didn’t make it. If Ian Dickson (“Dicko”) had his way, they wouldn’t have. They did “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, which is one of the only Dylan songs a punkette band could do (unless they really know their weird tunings – Dylan loves ‘em!). It was OK. Their original was OK, too. It was fun, but not really much of substance. The Donnas are on line 1, they want their schtick back.

Cliff Wagner & The Old Number 7 - These guys are good and tight. It’s an old timey band, with dobro, banjo, mandolin, stand up bass and drums. They did “Don’t Take Twice, It’s All Right”, which I thought sound world-weary and appropriate. The original was tight, but wasn’t cliché ridden. I think they’re just outstanding, but I doubt if they’ll win. America didn’t buy insurgent country when it was ‘hip’, you know.

The Muggs - They’re an older, ugly band (no, really, they are). A classic power trio, the hook to them is that the bass player plays keyboard bass because he had a stroke two years ago and was paralyzed on his right side, so he really can’t play bass anymore. But they’re a tight band, love playing, and did “Meet Me In The Morning” with gusto. Their original had gusto, too. But is gusto enough? However, I really like Rose Hill Drive, and Wolfmother, so I can deal with retro power-trios.

The Clark Brothers - A Nickel Creek II, Electric Boogaloo! (Ok, no sister playing violin, but still…very apt!) They’re good, tight, good looking, and play roots and heritage music with verve. However, their cover of “Maggie’s Farm” was too slick, and that song screams to be ragged. But they had a great original called “Billy The Kid”. I was afraid the mandolinist would saw his instrument in half, and the dobroist broke a sting but kept on. They’ll be a formidable foe in this competition.

Tres Bien - They were my favorite in the auditions, and did a great job with “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. This is a softball for them, since they are a 60’s retro band. Their original, “Easy To Love Me” sounded like it could have been the followup hit for the Oneders after “That Thing You Do”. However, that could limit them, really.

Franklin Bridge - I think they’re my favorite now. They’re a funk band from Philly that are old-school funk and also can rock out. They’re channeling Funkadelic and 24-7 Spyz, and that’s tremendous stuff there. They did a great job with “Tangled Up In Blue” combining harmonies and funk, and their original was tremendous. They brought it! Sheila E thinks they’ll win. But remember, it’s the American public voting, so who the hell knows for sure?

Dot Dot Dot - Ah, new wave wanna-bes with funky hair! Woo-hoo. No, wait. Woo. Hoo. There. They were amongst the weaker bands to make it through, and their cover of “Like A Rolling Stone” was rather all over the place. The vocalist is an over-emoting hack and can’t really carry a tune. Their original, “Another Stupid Love Song” is self-fulfilling prophecy. They also weren’t tight – the guitarist Rose is decent, but the rest of ‘em aren’t in synch, really.

Six Wire - I think they’re cheating, because they WERE signed before and had some minor hits on Warner Brothers records in 2002. So why are they here? They’re rather bland and safe contemporary country band. Pablum. Adult contemporary country, cut out of the Eddie Rabbit cloth. They did “Mr. Tambourine Man” like they were afraid to hit a wrong note or sing a bit out of tune or dare go past mid-tempo. The Red Staters will love ‘em though because right now, country is just faceless Southern Rock filtered with a southern accent and slick pop polish. These guys make the Marshall Tucker Band sound downright insurgent.

My Power Rankings (which are based on both how good I think they are, and who America will vote for…unfortunately):

1. Franklin Bridge
2. Cliff Wagner & The Old Number 7
3. The Clark Brothers
4. Six Wire
5. The Hatch
6. The Muggs
7. Tres Bien
8. Rocket
9. The Likes Of You
10. Light Of Doom
11. Denver & The Mile High Orchestra
12. Dot Dot Dot

We shall see – the results will be next week – if the show is still on.


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