Random acts

Of note

Folk headliner David LaMotte has won yet another award for his music. His song “Drops Like Me,” from his children’s album, S.S. Bathtub, took first place in the Northern California Songwriter Association Song Contest for 2002. For more information, visit www.davidlamotte.com.

Area rock act Eight-53 has recently parted with guitarist Billy Kendall. Kendall is replaced by guitarist Ben McKinney. For more information, visit www.eight-53.com.

Front-row reviews

Who: The ABCYC Benefit Battle of the Bands
Where: Mamma T’s at Rec Park
When: Friday, April 12

The Asheville-Buncombe County Youth Council’s Battle of the Bands to benefit the Special Olympics combined youth-oriented music with a good cause to bring out local high-schoolers by the hundreds. Winners were chosen by the amounts of money placed by listeners in each group’s donation box. Here’s a brief rundown:

Fifth Place: One-Eyed Fish Offering formulaic heavy-metal songs and — despite their name — little in the way of hooks or raw power, this band did have a few good moments, particularly on the solos, but they suffered greatly when it came to working together. This show was their debut, and odds are One-Eyed Fish will only get better as they perform together more.

Fourth Place: Junior Varsity This band’s performance was a tragic interlude in an otherwise upbeat event: In just a few months’ time, “JV” has gone from local pop-punk headliners to not even being able to make an impact at a benefit show. This was the group’s debut with new vocalist Drew Thomas, and while it was obvious the band was trying to make it all work, things just didn’t come together this time.

Third Place: Unit The most remarkable thing about Unit is that they didn’t get heckled. After all, what are the odds a crowd of high-schoolers would really appreciate a cover band fond of such embarrassing cliches as “Margaritaville”? The end of Unit’s set was heavy on more “current” songs from Pearl Jam and Metallica, which must have helped — a bit.

Second Place: Hannah Curtis Originally scheduled to be backed by her band, Curtis was forced to perform solo when the group instead backed out. Thankfully, she is an impressive acoustic performer who can boast a powerful vocal presence and guitar skills to match. Her performance had real heart, which came through even over the considerable background noise. Her prize? A $150 gift certificate to Musician’s Workshop.

Winner: Unscathed Out of all five performing acts, Unscathed was the only group to put on a real show: They even bothered to bring their own lighting equipment. Not perfect by any means, they were still far better than practically everyone, this reviewer included, had expected. While all their songs are firmly rooted in the heavy-metal idiom, they exhibited a good diversity in their song arrangements, including high-powered pop-styled songs, slow ballads and even a few songs with rock-anthem potential. The crowd went positively nuts for them — usually a good sign. Their prize? Three hours of recording time at Whitewater Studios.

Local vocals

“Melodic punk rock,” answers Holiday Rd. vocalist/guitarist Matt Anderson when forced into labeling his band’s sound. “It’s like punk,” he says, “with screaming, but not as much. It’s more melody and harmony.” With their new album, Next Exit, just a few weeks from release, Anderson and bandmates Doug “DougEvil” Mitchell and Matt Ring are preparing for their first East Coast tour early this summer.

DIY tours can be hard, and Anderson fully expects to be playing for little more than gas money. Still, it will be his first major tour, and he’s quite excited: “I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t think I could get nervous about it at all.”

The group has already started making a name for itself, regularly playing out-of-town gigs, and even opening for Bay Area punk legends Agent Orange at a recent show. Even with some moderate local success, the band continues to use “guerrilla promotions” to get the attention of would-be fans. For example, at a recent NOFX show, Mitchell threw a copy of the group’s demo CD on stage. It was picked up by NOFX frontman Fat Mike, who, according to Mitchell, took a look at the album and mused “‘Holiday Rd., huh? That’s not really the best band name.'”

As Mitchell explained, “Matt and I are both in the front row, and we’re both like, ‘But it’s not the worst!’ He was like ‘Yeah, it’s not the worst.’ We had this little dialogue going back and forth about our band name in front of a sold-out crowd.”

Expect to hear much more from Holiday Rd. in the days ahead. In the meantime, visit www.holidayrd.com.

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