Random acts

You decide

What makes one band better than another? Talent? Dedication? Fancy gear? A good gimmick?

For the next month, we’re soliciting readers’ picks in a Virtual Battle of the Bands contest. We provide the match-ups — all you have to do is go online, listen to each local act’s tunes, and decide which you like best. Then, drop Random Acts a line at unknowncity@hotmail.com stating your pick in each category (put “Battle of the Bands” in the subject line). Results will be tallied, and the “virtual” winners announced in the June 2 Xpress.

• Round 1 — Best Alt-Retro Rock: Fantastic Life vs. Senatobia

Both groups pay homage to the mainstream alt-rock of the mid-’90s, and both have yet to find their own niches in the decidedly non-mainstream Asheville music scene. Senatobia has toured more extensively, but Fantastic Life boasts a much-more-aggressive pop sound. Who will be voted Admiral of Alt-Rock? Visit www.senatobiamusic.net and www.fantasticlifemusic.com to download MP3s.

• Round 2 — Best Odd Rock: Reductio Ad Absurdum vs. Dig Shovel Dig

In a battle of the bizarre, only the weirdest survive. Can the bass-heavy, thunder-drumming, foot-keyboarding duo DSD out-eccentric the theremin-squalling, sax-wailing, sample-spewing Reductio? Will cacophonous punk-art hooks or chaotic jazz riffs win the day? Visit www.digshoveldig.com and www.artists.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/Reductio_Ad_Absurdum to get the tunes — then write us to cast your verdict.

• Round 3 — Roots Rock Grudge Match: Black Eyed Dog vs. Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers

The battle for the local-twang-rock title could be an explosive match-up, as it pits Black Eyed Dog front man Brian Landrum against his former bandmates The Hellsayers. Landrum’s straight-ahead lyrics and hearty metaphors may have met their match in Wayne Robbins‘ surreal imagery and Neil Young-y vocals. Can BED vaunt its superior studio recordings over the haunted-sea psychedelia of Robbins’ group’s official debut album? Visit www.blackeyeddog.com and www.goodluckcricket.com — and listen carefully.

• Round 4 — Best Schlock-Rock Shtick: Crank County Daredevils vs. Monsters of Japan

In the world of schlock metal, you need a good gimmick. There’s Alice Cooper’s faux-Satanism and GWAR’s monstrous puppet show — you can’t bring in the fans without delivering the ghastly goods. Well, when the over-the-top costume metal of Monsters of Japan clashes horns with the down-and-dirty comic-book sleaze-rock of Crank County Daredevils, whole cities could be destroyed. But only if you vote: Visit www.monstersofjapan.com and www.crankcountydaredevils.com

• Round 5 — Best Feel-Good Folkie: Benjammin’ vs. Michael Farr

Two sunny songwriters walk into this match, but only one acoustic-guitar-wielding folk bad-ass walks out. Can the shiny-headed Mr. Jammin’‘s “Peaceful” songcraft out-introspect the unshorn Farr‘s own “Thankful” vibe? When these two titans of tranquility step into the virtual arena, an unusually gentlemanly beatdown is sure to follow. Check in at www.bjbmusic.com and www.iamthankful.com, and tell us who should be crowned the local Baron of Bliss.

The Main Event: Blue Rags vs. Scrappy Hamilton

Regional throwback kings Scrappy Hamilton may have put “The Evil in Asheville,” but it was rag-‘n’-roll innovators The Blue Rags who put their pop-stomp stamp on the national map. The Rags slowly wiped out as the last millennium wound down, just when savvy Scrappy boldly stepped into the ring. Now we have the newly reunited Rags on the scene (at least temporarily) — can the “stompragboogie” magic of Scrappy keep putting up a fight? (At present, neither group has an active Web site with downloadable MP3s, so for music samples, try a search on any major Internet record store, such as Amazon.com).

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