Alt-Nation: WBRU Rock Hunt

It’s that time again — the finals of this year’s WBRU Rock Hunt take over The Met Café this Saturday night. The great thing about the WBRU Rock Hunt is every year is completely different. Sure, there are some years where there is an obvious favorite, but this year it’s wide open! Last year’s champs, Public Alley, came from out of nowhere to stun favorites Most Dangerous Men Alive and Forest Fires for the victory. This only goes to show that one can crunch the numbers and factor in a band’s draw all day, but come show time there is no sure bet when it comes to picking the WBRU Rock Hunt Champion.

In the old days when the event was at the now defect Giza in Olneyville, one could make prop bets on the street with the guy trying to sell you the hub caps he stole off the guy parked in front of you. These days finding trouble isn’t so easy, but where there is money to made, all things are possible. Things to consider when placing a bet is sometimes bands will do ill-advised things to take them out of the running. Some examples in recent years include Baylock thinking the world really wanted to hear them do a mid-set stripped down triple bongo number or even last year when Most Dangerous Men Alive performed a Rage Against the Machine cover that was void of all the energy and passion of the original. The best thing for a band competing in the Rock Hunt is to recognize what they are good at it and stick to that. If you are going to take crack at winning the Rock Hunt, take your best shot and do not try to out-think the moment.

This year’s contenders all offer something a little different. Oliver Penn and The Crystal Shivers get it done with straight soul tinged alt-rock complete with trumpets and sax. They have a new EP, Runaway, out now that basically shows off their competency. Oliver Penn and The Crystal Shivers are unlikely to go out and out rock anyone, but they could out-point the other combatants via their technique. I’d compare them to someone like Floyd “Money” Mayweather in terms of needing to out-point the competition to victory.

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Le Roxy Pro mixes in surf and Brit-Pop hazy harmonies to create ethereal jams. Le Roxy Pro have a veteran’s advantage to take the crown as one member of the band, Brent Battey, has previously won the Rock Hunt as part of The Wandas in 2010. The Wandas and I may not have had the best relationship. I said something along the lines that they suck and questioned their eligibility as a band that listed Boston as their hometown, but whatever, each rock hunt is its own beast. Le Roxy Pro has a self-titled full length album out. I’d put Le Roxy Pro as a favorite here capable of putting the crowd and the judges under their spell. I’ll give them the Hillary Clinton chance to victory for being established and more refined than their competition.

Young Lincoln in photos certainly lives up to the first part of their name. They probably have the potential to rock the hardest, but their recordings don’t necessarily capture this. The music is pretty much generic indie alternative with a little punk slithered in. Not too impressive at first glance, but come Saturday night, none of that really matters. Young Lincoln have an EP out called Is It Really You? that showcases their wares. On paper they are probably the biggest long shot as I don’t think there is any one thing that they do particularly well. In their defense, I would have said the same thing about Public Alley last year before the Finals, so that shows you what I know. In fact, I’ll give Young Lincoln the Public Alley’s chance to make it back to back upset wins in the Rock Hunt.

Eric & The Nothing get typecast as garage rockers, but the stuff they have online is more basic ’50s/’60s wistful rock ‘n’ roll. It is kind of funny to think that the winner of a 2016 alternative rock radio station could take their cues from someone like Ricky Nelson, but why not? He deserves more than just his offspring who gave us the ’80s hair pop band, Nelson. Eric & The Nothing have two releases with the Hot Shrimp EP and Temper Tantrums single available online. Eric & The Nothing are probably my favorite horse going into the Finals as a band I’d want to see, but my choices don’t always win. I give them the oldies but goodies chance to win.

Picking a winner out of this field is no easy feat. I think Young Lincoln might be the most explosive. I like Eric & The Nothing the best as a band. Oliver Penn and The Crystal Shivers can win it if all else breaks down just by being solid in kind of a Torn Shorts victory scenario.  That said, something in my gut just says Le Roxy Pro is going to be the band to beat. The moment after I send in my column, I’ll be on the phone to my bookie to bet the house their way. Best of luck to all the bands and enjoy March Madness.

The WBRU Rock Hunt Finals featuring sets by Oliver Penn and The Crystal Shivers, Le Roxy Pro, Eric & The Nothing, and Young Lincoln will take place at The Met Café in Pawtucket on March 19.  Doors are at 7pm with the music starting at 8pm.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

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