My Battle of the Bands: Round Three (Made It to the End!)

Patch columnist Michael Newsham entered a high-profile battle of the bands.

So here's what happened: the judges tally took two days. Don't ask me why. Still, they're in, and you can still be the first to know how The Michael Chance Band fared in the semi-finals.

It was an eventful night, to use a polite term, filled with drunkenness, camaraderie, and for my part, bilious rage.

It began with a showdown of the bottom four bands. For the first time, a band in the bottom surprised me. Jovial, rootsy rockabilly wasn't enough to keep April Mae & The June Bugs safe from danger, as they face off against Stephen DiJoseph, Sylvia Platypus, and Sexoffice for the coveted chance to continue.

I was led to wonder whether the letter “S” had some sort of voodoo cast upon it an hour into the night, when all bands whose name began with that letter were sent home, leaving April Mae, her mutton-chopped guitar player, and her 10-gallon hat wearing upright bassist to continue on, bringing honor to Moorestown, NJ.

I had the dubious honor of being the first of the “safe” bands on. We came out swinging, despite my own curse–technical difficulties. Last month, two guitar strings broke and shredded my hand. This week, my guitar simply cut out after two songs. Just in time for the ballad, in fact.

The soundman was bewildered, I was flustered, and Larry–the diminutive, tattooed and extremely competent stage manager–vaulted onto stage to drag a microphone in front of my guitar. We continued on and my guitar miraculously recovered immediately after my ballad had already been compromised by a mic'd acoustic guitar that wouldn't stop feeding back.

Then we busted out some new material and, I daresay, kicked some proverbial tuchus. You can see for yourself, in the videos posted by MCB fan and dear friend Terri Jo McIntyre and featured at the top of this article.

The judging for my band was the source of some of the aforementioned bilious rage. A judge rated my performance “too white” for whatever that means, and went on to criticize my band heavily as not being “good enough” to play with someone of my caliber. I respectfully disagreed, but held my tongue despite this boozy bashing of my guys. The remainder of the judges were fairer, or kinder.

“You guys keep getting tighter every time I hear you,” remarked Kevin Walker, owner of M Sound Recording and a talented composer in his own right. “I said it last week, and this time, when you quote me, you can use my name.”

Thanks, Kevin–that's the goal of every musician worth his salt.

Tommy Joyner, of Milkboy Recording, dug my turn of phrase in a song that hailed a girl as “easy on the eyes, heavy on my mind,” and wasn't shy about saying so.

Rena Sinakin, who I have worked with, had to recuse herself from voting but was kind enough to mention the sound difficulties we overcame in that set. I clenched my jaw against the first judge and waited to see if he would be so disrespectful to other bands.

As it turned out, he was not. He was fulsome in his praise of bands who made mistakes that audience members could see, and I was forced to field questions from people I've never met who asked me if I'd pissed this guy off. At some point–I'm not sure when–the annoyance transformed into disgust and I made to leave. Would have left, if not for the counseling of friends.

I was given the highest praise, and my band–guys who will show up and work for six hours on a song without being paid a dime–got hosed. It wasn't fair, and it hit me hard. I live and die on my guys–that's why we're The Michael Chance Band, not just Michael Chance. I write the songs, I front them, but I can't make that sound alone.

I stayed to the end, watching Ang & The Damn Band, Bride Dressed in Black, Black Horse Motel, an LP Stiles as they put in their best efforts. Highlights would include an emotional, throat-tearing number from the young Ichabod Crane sort that fronts Black Horse Motel, and the general oddity that is Ang & The Damn Band.

Then I waited, on tenterhooks, to see whether my very visible storm out would hurt my chances, until late Thursday night when I got the email that listed the bottom three bands for the final week.

My name wasn't in it.

I'm safe. I'm a contender. May 24, this Tuesday, will mark the very final round of Music-a-Live! Philly, and my very last chance at over $10,000 of career-advancing prizes.

It also marks the public's last chance to donate money or instruments to the flagging music department in Philadelphia public schools. Though we live in New Jersey now, where the problem isn't nearly as severe, many of us grew up in Philadelphia, myself included.

My music teachers meant the world to me. If it weren't for Dr. Jack Carr pushing me when I was in GAMP high school in Philly, I may never have conquered my stage fright and learned to front a band.

Besides, when your neighbor's house is on fire, you don't quibble over whose garden hose to use. You just do everything you can to help.



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