In the end it was an old-school gee-tar, banjo and a stand-up bass that did them all in.
Not to mention the lead singer's fantastic beard.
Ol' Mount'n Due was crowned king of the Southern Oregon Last Band Standing brouhaha Wednesday night at Havana Republic.
Before I get to Ol' Mount'n Due's sound, I'm going to talk a little bit more about frontman Larry Grose's beard. I mean, it was incredible in every conceivable facet of beardology. I say this with nothing but the highest admiration and not a little envy. I cannot grow meaningful facial hair, which is unfortunate because I lack anything resembling a chin. A cascading river of man hair flowing from my chin would do much to hide my terrible flaw. Yet it's not in the cards. I've learned to live with the chinless yokel look.
Wednesday was my first experience with Ol' Mount'n Due, and I came away impressed by the dudes. They play old-timey jazz/folk music pushed through a punk rock meat grinder. I could see them fitting in well at a Northside jazz club in Chicago, or playing an abandoned meth house in east Tennessee.
They sing songs about empty bars that are haunted by ghosts. Or perhaps it's all hallucinations of the songs' characters, who scurry around the fringes of society drinking, fighting and being poor and alone.
Grose's voice is chopped up by the same gravel that Tom Waits swallowed 40 years ago. The bass loops along, jagged and urgent, like a horse that got into a jug of moonshine.
Ol Mount'n Due competed against some of the Rogue Valley's best bands. 100 Watt Mind, Buckle Rash and The Hollowbody's pushed each other hard throughout the night. It's probably inaccurate to call the first Last Band Standing a competition because the bands seemed to genuinely like each other.
I spoke briefly with Silas Shand, singer for The Hollowbody's, before his set. He shrugged off the competitive aspect of the event, saying that he would be equally happy for any of the groups that should happen to take first place.
"As long as there's good music being played, that's all I give a (expletive) about," Shand said.
Having said that, the $5,000 first place cash would put a lot of gas in the tank and allow these quality local bands to push a bit further up and down the road to spread the word of Southern Oregon's music scene.
It seems that Havana Republic has something with the Last Band Standing event. It was rare to see downtown Medford that active on a Wednesday night. The place was packed with out-of-towners who (my god!) actually drove into Medford from Ashland, Talent and the Applegate.
To be sure, I predicted 100 Watt Mind would take home first place. Right now I'd rank them as the top band in the valley. Having said that, I think Buckle Rash played the best set on Wednesday night.
I've seen 100 Watt Mind about five times this year and would travel pretty far to see them again. There are some bands that just pop on stage. You might be someone who sees a lot of shows each year, so you know your way around a music scene. There are a lot of forgettable acts out there, which makes the ones that make that deep first impression all the more memorable.
100 Watt Mind is such a band. They just, I dunno how to say it "¦ click. They burn through their sets like the Ramones, the shredded edges of one song snagging onto the next. And if you aren't jaw-dropped by singer Brynna Dean then you have no ears, and most likely no soul, so stay away from me.
By this time next year, I'd like to see a host of new bands rocking the Havana on Wednesday nights. I know they are out there, festering in some garage in Central Point, ready to make heads turn at the wail of their Gibsons and rumble of their drums.
The main takeaway from Last Band Standing is that there is a powerful group of Rogue Valley dwellers that is hungry for live music. I'd like to see various businesses throughout the area give them what they want.
I continue to believe that an area's live music scene is vital to its soul. If you foster this creativity and give people with talent a place to showcase it, then you create a space where all types of people will feel welcome.
And, hey, they might even spend a couple of bucks. There's nothing wrong with a downtown economy saved by rock 'n' roll.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.