Welcome to our inaugural recap of The Next Great American Band, the American Idol spinoff that will give one lucky act the chance to achieve the same level of stardom as Taylor Hicks. First up: Friday night’s audition episode. Now, given that in the Idol world, those episodes usually draw in the trainwreck-hunting masses by the boatload, a non-Idol-like 2.0 rating makes me wonder if this show will even last long enough to get an official site that isn’t on MySpace. Oh well, at least Zolar X finally got the national TV time they’ve deserved for so long:
We open with a breathless intro package that runs down the audition process: Apparently “hundreds of auditions, thousands of DVDs, and thousands of Internet submissions” were received by the producers of Band, thanks in part to “the news spread[ing] like wildfire on TV”… or rather on Fox newscasts, which surely appreciated the opportunity to put off news gathering in order to get their cross-promotion on. Apparently the winner of this competition will not wind up like Ruben Studdard or Taylor Hicks, but like Daughtry (you know, last year’s Idol third-place finisher?) and Carrie Underwood. (Aw, poor Kelly.) We’re going to go through 60 bands in this episode, and that field will be narrowed down to 12. What!
Dominic Bowden, host of New Zealand Idol. (So he has a job to go back to when this gets canceled.)
Dicko. The Simon of Australian Idol. Likes polo shirts as opposed to Simon’s deep-v black Ts.
Sheila E. The Paula Abdul character, but less drunk and better behind the kit. Into presentation and unity.
Johnny Rzeznik. Sincerity, good songwriting, a great performance.
The rundown: Let’s just go through the bands that got through–and a couple that didn’t–in order, because this is really a long-ass show:
Sizzling Happy Family, Cunningham, Tennessee. Our first band brings the tension straightaway. One of the guys has kids and a deadline–he’s going to break up the band if it doesn’t head to the next round. “We’ll either be selling these guitars or getting them for free.” Are they really going to have every band run through a complete song? These guys are a pretty competent bar band, going so far as to go into a boogie breakdown that includes–oh man!–a rubber-chicken-aided guitar solo that’s accompanied by a grill. Talk about pyro on the cheap. But they get the thumbs-down because … they can’t sell records! And “this business is never going to be about the songs.”
Tres Bien, Clearwater, Fla. A completely fun mod band that has its audition song, the punchy “Your Graceful Soul,” available for download on its MySpace. They’re through, because Dicko was impressed by their songcraft and the time capsule they’ve embedded themselves in. We’re only one finalist in and I already have a favorite!
(Here I should also note that the Idol “joke band” ideal was still in full effect, despite there only being 60 bands on the show: One had someone wearing what’s supposed to be a horse head while singing “Kids In America,” although it kind of looked like a turned-around version of the T-Bone costume Patrick Stump wore in the video for “The Take Over, The Break’s Over.” And there’s also Xenovibes, a drum/theremin combo that covered “Good Vibrations.” And the woman who plays her bass while humping it. And the doo-wop group. These are all obviously setup for Dicko’s Simon-like tantrums, and I kind of hope that these bands that are being held up for mockery in the billion-degree heat–seriously, he flips out about having to sit through a freaking polka band, and how would that have ever gotten through in the first place?–at least got their trips to Vegas-adjacent for free. )
Light of Doom, San Marcos, Calif. Junior high kids who look like Hanson, shit-talk the kids at school who make fun of them, and wear shirts with their logo before they go shirtless:
Their influences: ninja, boobs, explosions, Iron Maiden, ’80s metal. The lead singer is operating in the castrati Bruce Dickinson vein, and the guitarist’s solo isn’t that bad! Sheila E. is goading Johnny into saying yes… and he does.
The Hatch, Brooklyn. A “hot” lead singer and a white-funk-gone-bad sound: This is what Maroon 5 hath wrought. (Dicko actually refers to them as “Maroon 3 1/2,” which sounds a bit generous.) On the bright side, it’s “nice” to know that Brooklyn isn’t only putting out art-rock bands these days.
Big Toe, San Diego. OK, I actually know this band, which has a bass player who has no arms and who plays his instrument–and drives his car–using his feet. If you’re one of the 12 people who cared about NBC’s ill-fated attempt at this concept, StarTomorrow, you might remember them; they play peppy, semi-funky pop-punk. As a band, though, they aren’t really that good.
The Clark Brothers, Nashville. Basically a showcase for some insane guitar playing; they’re an all-guitar outfit that covers “This Little Light Of Mine,” but add crazy solos. Who knows how they’re going to do during, say, Latin week, but their virtuosity gets them through.
Zombie Bazooka Patrol, Nashville. White makeup, black lipstick. They look like Juggalos on school-picture day, but they play sweetly raucous country that wouldn’t sound out of place at a Bloodshot barbecue. And Johnny calls their song a “one-hit wonder!” (Not everyone can write a song as amazing as “Slide,” I guess. Ahem.) That doesn’t stop them from getting through. I’m kind of surprised that I genuinely like two of the winning bands–and am charmed by one–at this point.
(Important note: During a “fun with the contestants” montage, one person is wearing a t-shirt that says “Skaneateles.” Yet we never see that band play a note! What gives?)
Dot Dot Dot, Chicago. They play three shows a week at least. A five-piece that looks like they were transported straight to Las Vegas from a MisShapes night at the Metro. they cover “Always Something There To Remind Me.” I’ve heard Naked Eyes, and they … are no Naked Eyes. But they are through. Ugh. Q101, you have so much to answer for.
Northmont, Dayton. Operating in the Daughtry/Eddie Vedder vein, although really the only Vedder-channeling happened when the lead singer climbed the rafters. (Side note: The setting–on a lake outside of Las Vegas–is giving this whole enterprise a serious MTV Spring Break feel.) And even though their musicianship sucks, they get a do-over–probably because they operate in the vein of “bands who are actually selling records in 2007.”
The Muggs, Detroit. A feel-good story because their bass player had a stroke; a feel-bad story because their take on Nuggets isn’t quite there in my estimation. But maybe they didn’t translate well to TV, because all the judges love them and they’re through to the next round.
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, Nashville. Do you like Harry Connick? The judges sure did! Although Dicko thinks the lead singer has “a touch of the Ned Flanders.” More cross-promotion ahoy!
Zolar X, Plutonia. Yes, that Zolar X. Unfortunately, they didn’t perform “Timeless,” and their performance of “Retro Rocket” was very creaky. But at least they gave Dicko the chance to make a “Uranus” joke.
Sixwire, Nashville. With a lead singer who looks like Sawyer from Lost and a big, harmony-filled country-rock sound, how can they lose? At least until next week.
Cliff Wagner and the Old No. 7, San Pedro. It would appear that Fox really wants the next great American band to really represent America, as this outfit has a nice acoustic-bluegrass feel. They also get the chance to do a second song in order to win over the pop crowd, and they give “Like A Virgin” the cover-song treatment. Well, a verse of it, because that’s all they know. But it’s enough to get them through to the next round!
At this point things start running out of time, so we’re treated to a montage of other bands who the judges liked: The Likes Of You (Daughtry with a very high yowl), Red Halo (Hinder fronted by C.C. DeVille), Lexicon (shitty rap-rock by snippets from the Cobrasnake’s cutting-room floor), Blackbird (second-tier modern rock).
Franklin Bridge, Philadelphia. Funk metal: It may be on the way back, especially if the three people sitting behind the panel have anything to say about it. (The drummer of this band and Sheila even did a little bit of drummer-geek bonding.) They’re through to next week, too.
Rocket, Los Angeles. They do a peppy-enough cover “Blitzkrieg Bop,” although the lead singer’s vocalists are a bit too … musical-theatery polished for a Ramones song. (Not to mention that once she comes in, the band’s pace begins to sag more than a little bit.) They get cut off, the second band in a row to do so, but they’re still through. The judges are probably getting as tired of this as the viewers are.
And finally, we come to Northmont’s second chance. The lead singer’s kind of out of tune, the song’s a generic plodder in the Lite-FM-rock vein, and the band doesn’t really sound that much better than it did in its first go-round … so they don’t get through, even though the judges like the lead singer, and would even add him to some of the other bands in the competition. Wait, didn’t this whole “come back … no, wait, we still don’t like you” scenario happen on American Idol last season, too? Well, I guess we know who’s writing the scripts. The whole outro is a depressing montage of Northmont’s members beating themselves up for sucking and having to go back to their jobs. But at least the guy wearing the “Skaneatles” shirt shows up again.
The top 12: Tres Bien, Light Of Doom, The Hatch, The Clark Brothers, Dot Dot Dot, The Muggs, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, Sixwire, Cliff Wagner, The Likes Of You, Franklin Bridge, and Rocket. Wait a second, what about Zombie Bazooka Patrol? Aw, nuts.
The bottom line: So the first episode was kind of a clusterfuck–blame having to shove 60 bands into 120 minutes, a feat that even the most schizophrenic TRL cutting wouldn’t be able to achieve–but Band could be a pretty interesting show, as the judges desperately try to hold on to acts that don’t just fit the Daughtry/country profile in order to give it some texture. Will it work? Considering that I don’t even know if this show will work–Fox is probably already trying to get a hold of StarTomorrow’s back-end from NBC–I’m not going to make any prognostications just yet.
Rooting interests, as of now: Tres Bien and Light of Doom. Although I’m going to say that Sixwire will probably win, if only because their brand of hottie-fronted big country will reel in the Friday-night homebodies who would otherwise be watching Numb3rs.
The Next Great American Band [MySpace]