Veteran band succeeds in third tryDanica Johnson

The fourth Benchmark Records Battle of the Bands has been a 29-week-long and winding road to the finish. Of the 215 bands that originally registered to participate in this particular battle, no other group has had the endurance to make it to the finals more times than Seven Degrees From Center. 7DFC celebrates its victory at The Battle of The Bands

After three trips to the Super Bowl of Midwestern music contests, 7DFC finally pulled off the win in the final round with a commanding performance and spirited showing of loyalists. Drew, Hamed, Ross, Tim and Scott are sure to make good use of the prize package that includes $10,000 cash, a touring van and recording time at Echo Park.

Each with their respective handicaps and advantages, the question was what is the $10,000 difference between these eight bands? The answer was revealed while observing the crowd watching 7DFC's set. Pulsing and swelling along with the notoriously intense modern rock, it was like watching a crowd under rhythmic hypnosis. Therein lies their real victory: playing with maximum intensity and pulling in everyone within earshot. Because they were able to most effectively do this better than any other contender, they can finally retire their parking space in future battle finals. Or more simply, perhaps the third time really is the charm.

Regardless of which band placed where, this was a great night of local music in one of the best rooms in Indy - a point best illustrated when the Vogue started to fill up as early as 8 p.m.

Easily the tightest and most polished band of the night, the Common played a solid set, par for the course for this seasoned group of professionals. They're known for their pitch perfect pop songs, but on this particular night the boys chose to wrap up their original goods with a cover of Queen's "Tie Your Mother Down." Fantastically done.

Because Project: Bottlecap has been billed as the Second Coming, every time I see them I expect miracles that don't occur. Don't misunderstand: This is a good band that will be a great band, sooner than later. Alex Bond is an exceptional drummer and frontman well on his way to having one of the most compelling and emotive voices this city has ever heard.

About the Fire played the most flammable set of the night - pun only half intended. Vocalist Sammy Clevenger, whether screaming or singing, is consistently intense while in motion and was also consistently gracious in between songs when addressing the crowd and the massive pit of people (the About the Fire Choir) hanging on every lyric. When not flexing the veins in his neck to capacity, Clevenger hosted a real love-in of appreciation for the music community and sponsors of the event.

The rocktronica ways of Lunar Event have never sounded better. With the addition of a live drummer and second guitarist, the group has filled out their sound to slot them as contemporaries with more mainline bands like Chicago's Assassins, rather than the niche existence of the electronica world. Although they came in fourth, they've opened a whole new door for themselves, in front of 800 people, no less.

Speaking of a niche existence, the post-mortem rockabilly Crypto-Kats worked the room with skeletal face paint and an upright bass. These guys are the obvious choice of opener for the Reverend Horton Heat. They definitely had the most work to do in order to place well. Although, you'd think throwing in the Aerosmith classic "Sweet Emotion" would have automatically bumped them into the upper half. Even though they went out in last place, they are truly entertaining.

For Pravada there was some battling of the technical elements while on stage and they weren't able to deliver the strongest set they've ever played. The reason they were in contention for first place and able to pull out a second place finish is because they have great songs and, I would speculate, the ability to snag a ton of second place votes, which can make all the difference.

The Shivers, with all members donning white pants, were in top form to close out the show. The switch-hitting of vocal duties between Royston Lloyd and Mike Contreras added a respectable amount of depth to their '60s style British Invasion sensibility. This is a point perfectly exemplified by their particular choice of covers, the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams."

Although the battle has been a terrific outlet and opportunity for the Indiana music climate to gain exposure and some nice prizes, I think all of us who judged, covered, played, worked for or supported the event are ecstatic about taking a break from the madness and reclaiming our Wednesday nights and Thursday productivity. At least until March when it all begins again.

Another view of the battleAngela Smith-Johnson

Most would probably consider the Benchmark 2004 Battle of the Bands to be a fairly rough and tumble event - rock bands, rock audience. So, it might be surprising that I should report back that I spent most of my evening giggling like a 13-year-old at her first semi-formal dance. But I did. Giggle, that is.

I spent my entire evening giddy while watching some of the best bands the city has to offer. The night kicked off with the Common, who put in an exciting, animated and effervescent performance. The groups that followed were no less impressive, and as the evening continued, I became happier that I had participated. Everyone busted out their best moves to Lunar Event, pumped their fists along with About the Fire and boogied down with the Crypto-Kats, by far the group that most sent me into giggling fits. That bunch is like the Stray Cats on acid, and they are, if nothing else, fun to watch.

The Melody Inn shut down in order to be sure that their staff and patrons could make it to the show. This spirit of camaraderie abounded, even as the lead vocalist of About the Fire noted, "This is the sh - that means stuff." That sentence was enough to make me nearly fall out of my seat with laughter, because of its lack of articulateness and eloquence. It was, however, the truest statement of the night.

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