Every Thursday for the past 11 weeks, 400 or more people have been loading into Boondocks where upon entering they're handed a red (or sometimes yellow) raffle ticket - you know, the kind that are awarded for skee ball prowess or can be redeemed for entry into less-corporate movie theaters. It's with that ticket that those gathered will voice their opinion as to which of the five bands that have been onstage during the past four hours has earned their confidence.
This is essentially the gist of Last Band Standing, the ongoing local marathon music battle that finally reaches a conclusion on Thursday, July 1, with the contest's final four bands going head to head for $30,000 in prizes, including a much-coveted 15-passenger van, a recording contract and plenty other goodies. Over the past three months, Boondocks has seen a healthy sampling of Bend's music scene, and most of it has been pretty strong, some has been so-so and, somewhat surprisingly, only a couple of the 38 acts chosen to compete were the sort of bands that need to spend a little more time in the garage.
By Thursday night, one of the following four bands is going to win that van and the recording contract and that guitar and an assortment of other prizes. If you're not quite sure who's who, we've listed them here in alphabetical order. Could we make a prediction as to who will take home the fan vote? Hell no, democracy is crazy like that.
Empty Space Orchestra
This band has been a contender to take home the top prize since the very beginning and has used their opening and semi-final round appearances in LBS to showcase the harder, faster, more technically advanced sound they've been crafting over the past year and a half. With guitarist Shane Thomas leading the charge, accompanied by fiery drummer Lindsey Elias, ESO has converted casual observers into fans during their two LBS appearances. Having spent much of this spring touring the Northwest, ESO is as road-ready as any band in the competition and the fact that they just played to more than a thousand folks at last week's Summer Sunday could give them an edge here.
Metal has been a constant theme throughout this competition and this technically solid band led the charge, winning the opening night's showcase and now finding their way into finals by way of what appears to be a sizeable and loyal fan base. KleverKill's music is accessible, especially to fans of late 1990s metal crossover acts, and Kurtis Israel's vocals are savagely wild and perfect for this particular style. KleverKill is aggressive, but super-tight and can be appreciated by those who might not consider themselves metallistas. Don't count this band out; Bend has always had a solid metal and hard rock scene so expect these fans to come out en force for this band.
There's little surprise that this familiar local musician and artist is making an appearance in the finals, even if he was one of the only hip-hop acts to be found in the initial field of 38. Playing material off his newly released album, Wake, with the help of a refreshingly jazzy live band, MoWo was an audience favorite during his first two appearances. Known as much for his showmanship as for his delectable beats and highly literal lyrics, expect MoWo to bring some special bells and whistles for this gig. The most significant advantage in his corner, in addition to his unique take on hip-hop, is the name recognition and expansive network of fans he's built over the years.
Hot Tea Cold
Far and away the dark horse of the entire Last Band Standing operation comes in the form of this funk-blues trio. As the only out-of-town band in the competition, it seemed the Portland trio would have an uphill battle ahead of them, but that's hardly been the case. And that's partially due to the fact that the band isn't completely foreign to Central Oregon - drummer Austin Early is a Bend native. When they played in the first round, Hot Tea Cold lit up the crowd, edging out well-known blues rocker Eric Tollefson to win the audience vote for that night's showcase. Guitarist and lead singer Glen Hoover can shred with anyone in the competition, which he's done at both of their appearances.
Last Band Standing Finals
8pm Thursday, July 1. Boondocks Bar and Grill, 70 NW Newport Ave. $5/door, $3/advance at Bend Indoor Gardening Station.