2011 Grand Band Slam Winners

First, the nominations flooded in. Then we put the top nominees on the ballot, and you let us know who you liked. An impressive list of bands came from that process.

The top vote-getter for the “new band” category was The 413, a band so new it seems they’d barely had time to play a few gigs when they got nominated. In contrast, Ruby’s Complaint formed in the 1980s, and recently got back together. Our top vote-getter in metal, The Black Heart Epidemic, is profiled in longer form. The remaining bands, many of whom offered responses to a host of questions, are listed below. No mere list can offer a taste of the creative minds behind all these local groups, but in their answers, they reveal themselves to be an inventive, often funny lot of entertainers. (Be sure to check out the Winterpills’ “worst moment,” and the real hometown of The Alchemystics.) Statements not attributed to particular band members were given as collective answers to our questions.

One odd fact worth noting: this year’s Grand Band Slam winners aren’t, with only one or two worthy exceptions, champions of ballads and slow-paced songs. They are, rather, musicians devoted to rhythm and groove. Even our winners in Folk/Americana (Rusty Belle) and Singer/Songwriter (Jamie Kent of Jamie Kent & The Options), categories that often steer closest to contemplative sounds, are players who tap into the rhythmic core of the music they offer.

Maybe it’s just the spirit of the times, but it looks like Advocate readers are interested in an upbeat party this year. That’s precisely what to expect on Wednesday, Oct. 5, when many of our winners and other area bands invade Chicopee’s Maximum Capacity for the free annual Grand Band Slam concert. Be on the lookout for a full roster, and be prepared to hit the dance floor.

Groove/Funk

Danny Pease & The Regulators (DPR)

South Hadley, Springfield
Formed: circa 2005
Next gig: Oct. 8, The Elevens, Northampton

Kenn Kosiba (vocals), Luis “Phaze” Perez (vocals), Jake Curran (bass), Dan Pease (right guitar), Jeff Katz (left guitar), Joe Grenier (percussion), Matt Penza (drums)

What was the worst thing to happen to you or a bandmember on stage?

Once, at Maximum Capacity, Phaze fell through the stage. He was unhurt, but his pride may never heal.

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

“Who Dat Ninja?” The title is a rip-off of a fake movie starring Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock (google it and check out the movie poster—priceless), and the song is about the time DPR battled a horde of ninja assassins at our local pub.
What’s the best thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Definitely the fans. Lots of good people who care about music and are always looking for a good time.

What’s the worst thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Not enough “all ages” venues and shows. Kids are more passionate about music than anyone, and they miss out on the local music scene because most shows are at bars.

What is your favorite song?

“The Decline” by NOFX. It’s epic, carefully arranged, and tells the story of our generation’s demise.

What is your least favorite song?

Anything by Lady Gaga; no explanation necessary.

What’s your favorite post-gig food and drink?

Water, because I’m far too out of shape to act like I do on stage, and Taco Bell, because it’s the only thing open.

What’s your favorite band name?

The Problemaddicts. It’s clever, descriptive of those degenerates, and also they just deserve a shout out.

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

Fear Nuttin’ Band. They kick all kinds of ass, and they’ve paved the way for rock/reggae in the Valley for over a decade.

Jazz

The Primate Fiasco

Northampton

Dave DelloRusso (banjo/vocals/harmonica), Steve Yarbro (clarinet/sax/vocals), Chris Trevethan (drums), Nick Borges (trumpet/vocals), J Witbeck (Sousaphone)

What was your biggest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

Every time someone holds our CD against the car window while passing us on the highway, far from home.

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

“Wrist Band Tan Line.” It’s about knowing that your strange memories of a festival weekend did in fact really happen because you have a wrist band tan line.

What’s the best thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Radio that plays local talent, paper that writes about local talent, venues that book local talent, and… what was the other one? Oh yeah, a ton of sick local talent.

What’s the worst thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Despite a music scene that will rival many major cities, when you leave the state, no one has heard of it. All they hear is, “I’m from a one horse town in Massachusetts that is not Boston.”

What is your favorite song?

“Happy Birthday.” It’s such a beautiful, flowing composition with profound lyrics and a nasty groove. We wish people would request it more than only five times per gig.

What’s your favorite post-gig food and drink?

Lots of burritos, fried dough, mysterious meat blobs, beer and overpriced smoothies. Because it’s what is available at a fest at three in the morning. Or PB&J, because it’s in the van.

What’s your favorite band name?

Always liked the name Drunk Stuntmen. I mean, seriously.

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

Beau Sasser has a good thing going on, because he incorporates other musicians and keeps it fresh. Also Whodafunkit. I’ve never seen a high school group rage that hard.

Singer/Songwriter

Jamie Kent
of Jamie Kent & The Options

Florence
Formed 2010
Next gig: Sept. 22, Theodores’, Springfield

Jamie Kent (vocals, guitar, ukulele), Rhees Williams (bass—upright and electric, backing vocals), Tim Boucher (piano, melodian, banjo, sousaphone, backing vocals). On big shows we bring in Dan Holmes on drums, Emily Duff on saxophone, and Jay Mosall on trumpet.

What was your biggest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

One time we were playing a pretty awesome venue overlooking a huge lake. Towards the end of our show, a guy with two black eyes, who happens to be tripping on acid, jumps on stage and starts dancing around each band member. He then asked if he could join us in the van and become our manager.

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

“Rosalita.” Just wrote this one on a bus in Puerto Rico after driving by a restaurant called Rosalita’s. You’ll have to check out our next album to see what it’s all about.

What’s the best thing about being a musician in the Valley?

The best thing about being a musician in the Valley is proximity to everywhere else in the Northeast. You can easily drive to Portland, Maine or Washington, D.C. in a day for a show. That’s not true of many places.

What’s the worst thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Worst thing? Because of the plethora of great music venues and fans in the Valley, it’s easy for bands to get stuck here.

What is your favorite song?

The two songs I’ve been listening to the most recently, and that definitely make my top 10 ever, are Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” and Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

What’s your favorite post-gig food and drink?

A glass of water with no ice, a cold Steel Rail, and a La Veracruzana burrito.

What’s your favorite band name?

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals. Killer band with a killer name.

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

The one I probably look up to the most at this point is Martin Sexton. He’s proven that with hard work and great music, you can make your dream a reality.

Performance DJ

Studebaker Hawk

Hometown: I grew up in Springfield, and I just moved to Somerville. I’m still spinning regularly in Western Mass. and continuing my monthly gigs, resident DJ for Bon Appetit Burlesque’s shows at the WW2 Club in Northampton and the monthly Sweet Excorcist party at The People’s Pint in Greenfield.

Started: I’ve been spinning for almost 10 years.

Next gig: Oct. 14, Bon Appetit Burlesque’s Halloween show, at the World War II Club, Northampton.

New Band

The 413

Ludlow
Formed: 2011

Please see feature story “Four Lads from Ludlow.”

Hip-Hop

The Alchemystics

Hometown: Garrick “Force” Perry: If we had to rep an area, I think we would claim Valhalla. Shout out to Odin and all the fly Valkyrie out there.
Formed: 2003
Next gig: Oct. 29, Pearl Street, Northampton with McLovin’s Paranoid Social Club
Demse Zullo (drums), Garrick “Force” Perry (vocals), Garrett Sawyer (bass), Ian “Ian I” Cooper-Pettys (vocals, guitar), Jason Metcalf (keys), John “Ras Jahn” Bullock (vocals and awesomeness) and, rounding out the home team occasionally, Matt King (percussion)

What was your biggest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

Force: One Halloween my costume was “What if Force went pop” and I wore an entire suit made out of bubble wrap (including bubble bling!). After we were done performing some young lady decided to, well, pop my package as I was stepping off stage. Startling to say the least. Don’t think it gets more rock stah than that so far.

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

Force: Most times we give songs some short working title as we tinker with the structure before we finally come up with a real name. Our motto is “short and sweet.” Right now we just call it “the greatest hip-hop, reggae, soul fusion song you have ever heard in your life until the next one we create,” or just”Told ya.”

Demse: “Hand Salad, part 1.”

What’s the best thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Force: Bagels. Amanouz, and Zen. Oh yeah, musically then… probably the proximity to the rest of the Northeast. The Valley is a great place to live, but any musician who’s been here long enough will tell you that the work is throughout the Northeast. So living here makes the drives mostly under three hours. The schools are great, it’s safe, and really is a little Valley bubble.

What is your favorite song?

Force: “Excalibur” by the Dungeon Family. Seriously, that song makes me cry.

Demse: Anything by Lil B. He gives everyone who can’t rap, sing or dance or do anything artistically really well hope that they too can have a music career. Just when you thought music was getting bad, there’s always Lil B. Amazing!

What is your least favorite song?

Force: Pick anything out of the Lil B catalog.

Demse: Anything by Kesha, because she’s an idiot, [and speaking as] a proud papa of a girl—she’s a horrible role model for kids and the human race as a whole.

What’s your favorite post-gig food and drink?

Force: Mead and mutton. ‘Cause that’s how we roll in the halls of Valhalla.

Demse: Ginger ale with a twist of lime on the rocks. I’m a simple man.

What’s your favorite band name?

Force: Thunderous Booty. Well, because not only is it a silly side project from Force and Demse, but it makes me giggle every time to think about some of our track names.

From my days in the Connecticut punk scene: Full Body Butt Crust is a standout.

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

Force: I’m a founding member of the Beau Sasser fan club (with a decoder ring to prove it). I have loved every project Beau has been in since before I joined the Alchemystics, and am very glad we got a chance to have him on our newest album, Spread Hope.

Demse: We have lots of love for Beau Sasser, Jopey [Joe Fitzpatrick], The Equalites, Riddim Inc, DPR, FNB, Rebirth, Fenibo, Shokazoba—I try to give it up to anybody doing their thing. If we can’t support each other as artists, then we really have nothing. This “music business” is chaos these days. It’s really oversaturated with bands and artists, so more than ever you need to have a community of artists who work together and support each other.

Metal

The Black Heart Epidemic
Springfield

Please see feature story “Captains of Crunch.”

Experimental/Noise

Giraffes? Giraffes!

Easthampton and Ludlow
Formed: 2005
Next gig: Sept. 30, Pearl Street, with The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra

Joe Andreoli (guitar, synthesizer, effect pedal tap-dancing), Ken Topham (drums, glockenspiel, percussion, shirtlessness/pantslessness)

What was your biggest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

Ken: Every time I take my pants off on stage.

Joe: And he takes his pants off, like, every time. It’s actually really weird when he doesn’t take his pants off.

What was the worst thing to happen to you or a bandmember on stage?

Ken: One time I cut my hand pretty badly on one of my cymbals early on in the show and bled all over everything: my sticks, my drums, my clothes; everything was covered in blood.

Joe: That was pretty rad. I remember that Ken also broke his snare head mid-song and had to borrow one of the other band’s snares. He got blood all over that one, too. It seems like Ken is always getting into something or another. A couple shows ago I saw him slip on a water bottle while carrying his bass drum across stage. His legs went out straight in front of him and he was flat in the air like a cartoon. He fell flat on his back onto a bunch of cymbal stands and things flew everywhere. But the dude’s like T-1000 from Terminator 2. He always gets up like, “No big deal.”

What’s the name of the last song you wrote?

Ken: “The Curse Of The Tooth Nightmare” was the last song we wrote for our latest album, which is coming out Sept. 30.

Where did the song come from?

Ken: Space. The song came from space.

Joe: And then beamed into our brains via dreams. Have you ever had a tooth nightmare? The horror!

What’s the best thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Ken: Seeing my dad at our shows.

Joe: Yeah, totally! It also seems like people in the Valley are sincerely enthusiastic about music and they help create a really neat musical ecosystem. It feels great to be a part of it.

What is your favorite song?

Ken: My favorite song is “What A Wonderful World” by George David Weiss. It’s perfect.

Joe: I like the song of the black-capped chickadee.

What’s your favorite band name?

Ken: The Bulletproof Tiger. This is the awesome name of an awesome band from Windsor, Ontario. I love them. Just try to think of the truly uncompromising, indestructible, amazingly complex force of a bulletproof tiger without feeling either excited or scared or both or something else.

Cover/Tribute

Ruby’s Complaint

Turners Falls
Formed: In the ’80s
Please see our profile here.

Punk

Creepin Cadavers

Arkham
Formed: 2007
Next gig: Sept. 24, Northeast Chop Shop, Windham, Maine

Jeff Wright (guitar, vocals), Scottie Cadaver (double bass), Handsome Al (drums, vocals)

What was your biggest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

I’d say the one moment for all of us that made us feel like we “made it” was seeing our band name, Creepin Cadavers, in the intro credits to the videogame Wet. That was rock ‘n’ roll. The game is about a badass girl who is betrayed and is on a mission to get the man who betrayed her. Seeing our name and hearing our song on the soundtrack was amazing.

What was the worst thing to happen to you or a bandmember on stage?

Back when we first started, Jeff wasn’t “wireless” yet, and Scott ran across the stage dragging his big double bass and accidentally pulled out every chord imaginable on Jeff’s rig. I’d say that was pretty bad in an embarassing way. In an intoxiciated way, Jeff has eaten random gold fish and done shots of tequila while walking on the bar at the Basement in Kingston, N.Y. The next morning, he thought that was the worst.

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

“Two Against the World.” It’s a song that will be released on our next album, which we are currently finishing up writing. The song is an homage to Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror. Al loves horror movies, and in fact owns his own production company, Kirby Productions, that makes horror films, among other things, and was very inspired by Rodriguez’s Grindhouse zombie gore fest. He was especially consumed by the love story between Cherry Darling and El Ray. Thus “Two Against the World” was born, telling this love story in a Wild West psychobilly style that only the Cadavers could pull off!

What’s the worst thing about being a musician in the Valley?

All the all-ages clubs have seemed to vanish, and all the ones that are still open seem to have a built-in metal/hardcore scene and still don’t care about any other genre of music. The Valley was a very, very, very hard place for a punk/psychobilly band to start off, and somehow we managed to jump every hurdle and develop a name for ourselves. If you don’t support all genres of music, soon the scene will vanish like the venues. Support the bands. Support the venues. Go to shows!

What’s your favorite post-gig food and drink?

Your brains.

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

Once again, there isn’t much of a punk scene in the Valley, so we are going to step a bit outside our genre and say AndyHasABand. Andy is one of the greatest songwriters in the Valley, if not in New England, and we suggest everyone give his songs a listen.

Country

The Truck Stop Troubadours

Chicopee
Formed: 2010
Next gig: Sept. 24, Pulaski Hall, Chicopee

Brian Chicoine (vocals/guitar), Jim Lenn (drums), Junior (bass), Rob “R.G.” Grimaldi (lead guitar)

What was your biggest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

We had a really great year this year. We got to play for some great festivals and fairs like the Chicopee Fest-Of-All and the Four Town Fair in Somers, Conn. But the big show this year was getting to open for the Legend and Godfather of neo-traditional country music, Dwight Yoakam, out at the Indian Ranch in Webster.

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

As the songwriter, Brian Chicoine finished a last-minute song called “Small Reminders (Your Love is Gone)” that was based on a pretty trying break up for him that happened this spring. It is a stark acoustic ballad about how the memory and love of this woman still haunt him, and it is done in a very stone-country style.

What’s the worst thing about being a musician in the Valley?

The fact that a lot of clubs, and, actually, club patrons, would rather have a DJ or karaoke than see a live band.

What is your favorite song?

Way too many to call one a favorite, but I would have to go with “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, just because it was the first song I learned and the song that has brought me to where I am today with this band. The song is still a highlight of our set and will always be in there.

What is your least favorite song?

There are plenty. I am just going to say that a lot of the “modern” country gets under my skin, only because they lost track of what the roots of the genre are. Don’t get me wrong—there are a crop of great modern country artists that carry a flag for tradition, like Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Jamey Johnston, and a few others… but a lot of it, to me, is just leftover Bon Jovi or Def Leppard ballads. Just because you throw on a cowboy hat and a flannel Western shirt, it doesn’t make you a country band. The songs have no twang, and the guitars could be interchanged with a Nickelback song. Don’t get me started—I will rant all night!

World

Shokazoba

Northampton
Formed: 2005

Electronica

Jeff Bujak

Northampton
Started: 2006
Next gig: Oct. 29, Iron Horse, Northampton

Jeff Bujak (keyboards, programming)

What was your biggest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

Winning “Best Electronica” at the Grand Band Slam three years in a row, of course! But, other than that, probably having a sold-out crowd of a thousand deafeningly demanding to get one more out of me once I finished my 90-minute non-stop set opening for Pretty Lights in Clifton Park, N.Y. last year. That felt good.

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

The last song I “wrote” was called “Peach.” The track is juicy, sweet with a little bit of fuzz. It came from a tree.

What is your favorite song?

“Detachable Penis” by King Missile. Because that would be as rad as it can get.

What is your least favorite song?

Martin, Harding and Mazzotti, “Because they did it again.”

What’s your favorite post-gig food and drink?

I love a Guinness before, during and after. It’s like a meal. It fills you up without the calories.

What’s your favorite band name?

Tony Danza. Great electronica act… awesome name. That, or Com Truise. Again, another great electronica act.

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

Beau Sasser. Dude’s an animal. Bottom line.

Blues

Chris Piquette Band

Chicopee
Formed: 2010
Next gig: Sept. 24, The Southwick Inn

Chris Piquette (vocals, guitar), Jackson Smith (bass), Kevin Bias (keys, vocals), Nick Connors (drums, vocals)

Folk/Americana

Rusty Belle

Amherst
Formed: 2007

Matt Lorenz (vocals, nylon-string guitar, foot suitcase, foot can, fiddle), Kate Lorenz ( vocals, percussion), Zak Trojano (vocals, accoustic and electric guitars, foot percussion)

Biggest rock and roll moment?

Zak Trojano: Skinny-dipping with Joli Holland.

What was the worst thing to happen to you or a bandmember on stage?

Well, we just played the Transperformance as “young Elvis,” and we’re getting ready to sing “Love Me Tender,” and this kid in the front row shouts to us, “When are you guys getting off stage?” It always feels good to connect with our fans. Especially the kids.

What’s your favorite post-gig food and drink?

Matt and I usually have an IPA, or the closest thing to an IPA we can get. I go right out for a smoke. Matt started rolling these “herbal” ciggarettes—that’s not a euphemism for weed—real herbs, like mullin and sage. Kate has a seltzer… but then Kate always has a seltzer.

What’s your favorite band name?

I was in a band, briefly, called Queenis with Sarah and Mo. Great band. We never really got going, but in our minds we were great, and no one can ever touch the Queenis in your mind.

Pop

Winterpills

Hadley
Formed: 2004
Next gig: Oct. 9, Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls. Duo show with Philip Price and Flora Reed.

Brian Akey (bass, keyboards), Dennis Crommett (guitars, vocals), Dave Hower (drums), Philip Price (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Flora Reed (vocals, keyboards)

What was the worst thing to happen to you or a bandmember on stage?

Might actually have been the best thing, but when a fan left a note on the stage saying, “Cheer up, band, it’s not so bad.”

What’s the name of the last song you wrote? Where did the song come from?

Not sure what the name is yet, maybe “Be My Flame” or “Feather Blue.” Came from where they usually do, which is my third heart. The first two are boarded up. It’s a midget heart.

It’s about a guy in a boat trying to win a girl who is in another boat and they are both in a maelstrom, spinning round and round, and all he can think about is the fact that he forgot to put a tie on.

What’s your favorite band name?

I can’t think of any band that likes its own name. And frankly, some of the best bands have the worst names. And I don’t think I want to get in another fistfight with the guys from Mr. Mister.

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

I would have to list them all, so consider them all listed. I know it’s a cop-out, but I owe people lots of money.

Street Musician

Bennie the Bucket Man (Bennie Johnson)

Amherst

Rock

Triple X

West Springfield
Formed: 1988; new incarnation: 2009
Next gig: Oct. 1, Geraldine’s, West Springfield

Gina Andia (lead vocals), Jake Torrey (bass), Dave Hall (guitar, vocals), Mike Duquette (drums), John LaValley (guitar, vocals)

What was the worst thing to happen to you or a bandmember on stage?

We have been very fortunate, and haven’t really had any incidents on stage other than the occasional broken string. Although in July we played the Sun Valley Campground with Knucklehead, Sdrum, and FDFF and people were taking bets on whether Jake or John was gonna pass out from heat stroke first. It was brutal!

What’s the best thing about being a musician in the Valley?

That we are surrounded by an amazing pool of talented musicians. There is so much talent here. We all just need to learn to work together rather than compete—we could accomplish so much more!

What’s the worst thing about being a musician in the Valley?

Well, the “scene” has really suffered over the last few years—clubs closing, clubs going to DJ and dance nights, et cetera. I think if we all started working together rather than against each other, the scene could thrive again! Instead of bands posting little digs at other bands when they are playing opposite them, they should communicate ahead of time and make sure if you have a lot of the same people that come to see you, don’t book a show on the same night in the same area. And the clubs should do the same. If Geraldine’s has Derek and the Funbags or Aquanett, the other clubs should book bands like Dynamite Disco or Souled Out, et cetera. Don’t book Back in Black or Triple X or Disorderly Conduct to try and compete—you’ll just split the draw and then both the clubs and the bands suffer.

What is your least favorite song?

Probably “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” I think just about every band in the Valley has covered it, and I am thankful that it is not in our set list!

What’s your favorite band name?

I think we would have to say it’s a band that used to be around here a few years back: Adios Pantalones. Goodbye Pants! How can that be bad?

What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like and/or look up to?

That’s a tough one. There are so many for so many different reasons! Our favorite new band has to be F.D.F.F. They just kill it! For covers, it’s got to be Disorderly Conduct and Aquanett. For original material, hands down it’s got to be Chris Piquette and Mike Abdow. The guys in Legion have a cool old-school metal sound.

Author: James Heflin

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