Sign up by Friday, May 15 to be part of the inaugural Battle at the Bear. The grand prize for this battle of the bands, held at Hendersonville’s Black Bear Coffee Co., is $350 in cash, a full promotional kit from Peppermint Media and three songs professionally recorded, mixed and mastered by Giraffe Studios. (Prizes for runners up are worth mentioning, too: $150 for second place and $50 for semifinalists.)
The contest opened on April 3, and the hope is that it will do more than bolster the local competitive spirit. “Downtown Hendersonville doesn’t have a listening room per se,” says Raphael Morales who books talent for the Black Bear Coffee Co. “Cover bands and bar music, that’s cool and all. But there’s not anything that caters to original artists.” John and Cathy Ogden, the new owners of the coffee shop, have already made some significant changes, such as securing an ABC permit to serve wine and craft beer as well as caffeinated beverages. “I met up with them in early December of last year and offered to set up a sound system and start reaching out to musicians in the area,” says Morales.
Right now, bookings range from solo acts to full bands, and all genres are considered. In an attempt to reach more artists around Western North Carolina, Morales and the Ogdens came up with the idea for the battle of the bands. Each Friday in June, two acts will go head to head. Judges, including Jim Beaver of Jim Beaver’s School of Music and Americana musician Eric Congdon, both from Hendersonville, will rate the playoffs. “They’re based on three criteria: musicianship, showmanship and performance,” Morales explains. The band with the highest score walks away with $50 and an invitation to the semifinals. Finals take place on Friday, July 17.
Registration for interested musicians is $65. That might change for the next Battle at the Bear; cover songs may also be allowed in the future. This first event is a learning curve, says Morales. “Asheville’s got a wonderfully saturated music market. Hendersonville is kind of scattered and is just now beginning to blossom,” he says. “We just hope to be able to tap into that potential.”
Battle at the Bear takes place Fridays, June 5, 12, 19 and 26. Semifinals are held Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11. Finals are on Friday, July 17. No cover to watch the battles and semifinals; $8 advance/$10 at the door for the finals. Info at blackbear.coffee/battle