Battle of the Bands continues with singer/songwriter showcase
Feb. 26 – The second round of the Lincoln Theater’s Battle of the Bands competition brings singers/songwriters out of hiding and onto a bigger stage than most of them are used to.
Some have practiced working with other guitarists on monthly Jam Nights, but March 5 will be a little different.
That night, they sit on stage alone or, if they’re lucky, as a duo, singing folk and Americana ballads that must captivate audiences if they’re to feature in the final showcase in June.
Much like last month’s rap/hip-hop episode, in which CinoSoWavy took home the winning votes, it’s not really about competition. More than anything else, these musicians wear their hearts on their sleeve to strengthen the singer/songwriter community and gain recognition on what, for most artists, is the biggest stage they’ve played on in their lives.
A contestant, Dalton Barnett, started playing guitar on as small a stage as possible.
“I wanted to quit my job, I was 16 and a half and had been playing guitar for about six months,” Barnett said. “There’s a fall festival in Evansville, Indiana, and thousands of people go there. So I just settled down somewhere, and I knew no one could hear me, but they let me down. just threw money away.
“I was like, (expletive) that. I could live with that.”
From then on, whether he lived in Hawaii, Montana or traveled to Colorado, if he had a guitar, he would sit on street corners just to spread his music.
It forced Barnett to learn to play a little differently. When you play for passers-by, your music needs to be able to grab them in an instant. There can’t be a dull moment in your song.
But it’s not like he learned to play in a traditional style in the first place. Barnett didn’t learn his chord progressions by imitating his favorite artists and musicians – he learned on his own. When he first settled down to play in Evansville, he only knew four chords, but that moment clearly inspired him to this day.
“I just hope I don’t (expletive),” Barnett joked. “I forgot words in the past in front of 15 or 20 people. I definitely got too drunk and forgot the words, but I got better. Hope next time I will promote my stuff.”
If things go as planned, he will perform with his good friend Mario Islas as a duo, each with an electric guitar. They will play his songs, and there is little chance that he will forget the lyrics.
One of the things Barnett is most looking forward to is the opportunity to meet other musicians who want to play together. Jam Nights are a great start, but hanging out with other singer-songwriters can open up new avenues.
Blaine Shinn is another musician who frequents The Lincoln’s monthly Jam Nights. In this case, the Battle of the Bands is nothing more than another chance to get on stage and perform in front of a crowd.
“People are probably getting nervous because they think it’s a competition,” Shinn said. “Look at all the decent singer-songwriters; they’ve probably won a songwriting contest, but they’re doing it because they love it. It takes a lot of the stress off if, for me, it’s only playing for 10 15 minutes, and that’s it.”
A metalworker by trade, music “keeps me from going crazy”, he says. Often seen playing keyboards for blues jam bands at Lincoln, Shinn will stick to his guitar, using old-world and hard-hitting effects, like an 808 overdrive through his Marshall Bluesbreaker.
Older gear creates older sound, and that’s what Shinn is looking for. He said that if he played with any accompaniment, the drums would probably be something offbeat, similar to tribal drums. It’s about having fun and doing it your way.
Its simple setup keeps it honest. With the tasks of his daily job, he hasn’t had much time to train, but it would be an extreme to say he’s worried. On the contrary, the spontaneity and organic nature of the performance make its 15 minutes interesting.
“It will either be a train wreck or a masterpiece – one or the other,” Shinn said.
A big part of the anticipation for musicians is that they often fail to stand in front of a crowd and play original music. Typically, they make their way through the bar scene, settling into the back corner of a beer hall to answer requests for popular songs. It’s a way to make money, sure, but it’s not the same as playing your own stuff.
The Battle of the Bands is the perfect place to foster this connection between the singer-songwriter and the community. Ross Lindstrom has been playing around Cheyenne regularly for six years now, and while he cringes at classifying this as a “battle”, the effect it has on the community cannot be underestimated.
This gives space for new generations to develop the local music community. Soon, artists will no longer have to leave town to increase their presence.
“We all want to come up and see ourselves kill and do great things,” Lindstrom said. “I don’t think there’s a real competitive nature to it. It’s just an opportunity for everyone to show their stuff, put everything aside and support each other.”
Still, it’s a competition, and the winner will move on to the showcase’s final performance on June 10. Before that, rock bands will take the stage on April 2 and metal bands on May 14.
Will Carpenter is the arts and entertainment/reports reporter for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.