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Ferocious Battle of the Bands in Downtown NYC

For nine years, M.E.A.N.Y. Fest has lured me to judge their intense rock band competition finals by promising free chicken wings, some Diet Cokes, and a chance to make life-changing decisions about something I know almost nothing about—music!

It’s kind of intoxicating to sit there, all greasy faced, caffeinated, and devoid of any real credentials, and get to pick which of four bands deserves to win recording and performance time, not to mention a free guitar and probably some chicken wings and soda too, for all I know.

So there I was the other night at the popular club Santos Partyhouse, helping determine which group deserved the prizes and feeling far more willing to be a bully than Ellen DeGeneres did on American idol. After all, I didn’t have to get on the microphone and say a word of criticism about anyone–I could simply jot down my poisonous pronouncements, then scoot for the exit and head for safety.

I easily ruled out the three depressed looking teens in flannel shirts who made you feel as if you had broken in on their private garage session. I also wasn’t thrilled about the band with the dated L Word hairdos, including one on a male guitar player, though they admirably exuded lots of confidence, as if they were playing a packed arena, not a raw watering hole below Canal Street.

So it boiled down to Ghosts of Eden, a hard rocking combo who were slicker than an oil spill, and Last Stand For Lucy, a group of muscley brutes spitting out more angst than a flaming griddle. “The lead singer won the Purple Heart in Iraq,” a friend of the band told me after their set, and though impressed, I refused to factor that in for this particular medal of honor.

For their performance alone, Lucy won the best of the M.E.A.N.Y. (a/k/a Music & Emerging Artists NY), triumphing on “Burn Everything,” the big song off their debut EP, Bastards of Gramercy. As the singer told an interviewer, “This single reflects the destructive impulses of a person who has abandoned hope for an already desperate state of affairs.”

Yay! I love voting for anything with a healthy sense of rage and rambunctiousness. But the other three bands shouldn’t get into their own angry snits about things. As we’ve learned from American Idol, it’s the runners up who always have the careers anyway.