After three weeks of furious competition and a closely-contested final decided by less than 2 points Aunt Polly's Glass Eye came away victorious Sunday in the 3rd annual Hard Rock Calling Battle of the Bands at Hard Rock Cafe.
The Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.-based rock band beat out Charlotte's Beyond the Fade and Below the Bassline to take the local title.
"It was no surprise to see them win. Aunt Polly's really did a great job last year and we knew they were going to come back and do a great job this year," said Janice Duffy, Sales & Marketing Manager at Hard Rock Cafe.
The win pleased what was easily the largest crowd of the event's month-long run at Hard Rock. In fact, before announcing the winners WKZQ's Kinard — the night's emcee — joked that if the judges didn't choose Aunt Polly's, they might want to head home early as a large portion of the 300-400 people who stuck around to witness the final decision were cheering for the band.
"The crowd was amazing tonight. All three bands really brought out their fans, friends, family and it made the energy so much higher having all those people in here," said Duffy.
Upon winning, usually-animated frontman Brandon Bailey addressed the judges with simple "Thank You," before celebrating amongst a group family and friends that included teary-eyed drummer Joey Howard happily holding with his daughter.
Aunt Polly's will now move onto the competition's next round in which their music will be judged by a panel of professionals in Orlando. News as to whether they will advance further in the competition is expected within the next two weeks.
The evening started out with Below the Bassline performing to a crowd of delighted local fans who came out in numbers to support the reggae rock act. They performed originals such as "Remember Me" and "The System" in a long, four-song set that lasted nearly 30 mins — a feat which the host noted likely wouldn't be matched by the other bands.
In addition, the band met the competition's requirement of covering a Bon Jovi tune by putting their oown spin on the Jersey rockers' "Have a Nice Day."
"I thought Below the Bassline really brought it tonight. They really stepped up their game tonight and really blew it out of the ballpark," said Carolina Improv Company's Gina Trimarco, the only of the judges to have attended all four weeks of comeptition.
Next up wast Aunt Polly's Glass Eye, who repeated the feel of their round 2 win with a polished sound and a high energy performance. For their cover of "Dead or Alive," the usually instrument-less Bailey picked up an acoustic guitar and gave a powerful vocal performance that likely helped win over the judges.
"It was a good time, I was impressed," said local musician and finals judge Marcel Almanzor.
The performances closed out with round 1 winner Beyond the Fade. The Charlotte-based band were the clear underdogs of the evening — perhaps due to proximity — as the crowd on hand to cheer them on was signifcantly smaller than either of the other bands.
However, that didn't stop them from putting in a rocking performance that included going the extra mile of trying to get people involved by jumping off stage to play in the crowd. Their set included originals called "Making Love" and "High Octane" in addition to their Bon Jovi tribute which combined "Livin' On a Prayer" and "It's My Life."
"I never really listened to Bon Jovi," said singer Tristan Lear. "But we had to throw together this cover for the competition and we think it turned out pretty damn good."