Hard Rock Cafe’s 4th annual Battle of the Bands kicked off last night with Myrtle Beach’s own Stealing Anger getting the nod over Shed This Burden, a group of newcomers from Florence and Mullins.
A panel of five judges that included local musicians Stevie Mac, Joe Meckley and Dino Capone, helped the trio advance to the March 3 finals, where they will now compete against the winners of the next two weeks of competition.
Playing the second of the night’s two 30-40 minute sets, Stealing Anger turned in a high-energy performance that featured original tracks such as “Empower” and “Three Lighters” and even a cover of “Touch, Peel and Stand” by Days of The New.
The veteran stage presence of bassist Ronnie Santella and rock-solid instrumental work from guitarist Donnie Bletz accented the lead vocals — and occasional stand-up comedy — of drummer Joe Anderson.
While happy to be moving on to the next round, Anderson said after the win that he struggled a bit with playing on a shared drum set for the contest and definitely sees room for improvement the next time around.
“I think we did fair. But really aside from having to share a backline things were good and we had fun,” he said.
“We had a blast,” added Bletz. “We weren’t really here to compete, we’re just here to play for the people and have a good time.”
The night’s runner-up, female-led rock rock/metal group Shed This Burden, kicked off the night with an impressive performance — especially considering the band’s experience level.
“This performance was actually our first show together,” said vocalist Mandy Todd. “We got together this summer through the studio. I was writing there and they were writing and already had like five songs done. So I got with them and started writing the vocals and it all just came together really fast.”
The five-piece band’s set was highlighted by driving riffs from guitarist Matt Perkins and beats from former Hardcore drummer R.J. Dorsey on original tracks such as “Perfect Addiction” and “Good Enough” as well as the Todd’s vocals on a cover of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero.”
“It was a really good experience for us with this being our first show. Maybe the first few songs were a little rocky, but we really pulled it all together and I’m definitely happy with what happened,” said Todd.
The night had been scheduled as a three-way battle between the two rock bands and local pop/hip-hop artist Will Misdom, but was pared down to a head-to-head competition when Misdom withdrew from the competition citing a sickness that had affected his voice and ability to perform.
“I can still rap, but as far as singing, it just wasn’t going to happen,” said Misdom. “It’s tough, because I was really looking forward to this, but I definitely wanted to still come out and show my support for the other artists.”
But despite being one act short, the night drew a crowd of dedicated fans a musicians — including members of upcoming competitors Power Born Rebellion, The Big Lie and Below The Bassline — and was considered a successful start by Hard Rock sales manager Janice Duffy and her staff.
“I’m excited about this year. This is much bigger than the first round was last year,” said Jakim Fignole, Hard Rock’s vibe host and the Battle’s emcee. “This has kinda been a test run with the new voting process and everything, but I think things are going great with all the participation — there was over 12,000 bands in all this year, and more than 200 for our location — it’s only going to keep getting bigger.”