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Friday June 3rd, 2011

Posted at 7:42pm

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The LaSalle Strawberry Festival kicked off it’s 24th year on Thursday night with a beauty pageant and a battle of the bands. I was fortunate enough to be a judge of the second event, and it was an interesting experience.

The panel of judges consisted of Randy Grey, the frontman for local band Ashes of Soma, (they’ve got a song of two on 89X you might have heard one or twelve times) Jarrett Warren, formerly of Pirate Casting and Lonesome Pine Studios in Toronto, and myself, an opinionated person with a camera and diploma in audio engineering.

We were charged with the task of judging five bands based on musicianship, stage presence, and creativity, with ten points being awarded for each for a total of 30 possible points.

The first band to play was HelloAudio, a pop group that received 7’s and 8’s across the board. They weren’t bad, but I don’t think anyone was wowed. And the judges unanimously voted that they need to buy a bass tuner. Good job to them, though.

Up next was No Dice. Apparently they’re all in grade nine and have been playing together since November. All of that taken into account. Still, they did a set entirely comprised of covers. Perhaps not the best idea for a B.o.B. But, at least they chose interesting songs like “Go Johnny Go” as opposed to all top-40 hits. And they had co-ordinated outfits that went with their style of music; cute. But they did choose a lot of guitar-centered songs, when guitar might not have been their strongest point as players. Definite potential, though; now let’s hear some originals.

Saving Radio followed that, opening with a very Reel Big Fish-esque ska tune and moving on into pop-punk reminiscent of old-school Blink-182. They certainly had some presence, wildly flying about the stage and obviously enjoying themselves, but the timing was pretty whacked-out for a lot of it. Perhaps work more on that and less on being stage-crazy, beat up the instruments a bit less, and I can see a band to play with The Rowley Estate.

Then the stage was taken over by State of Us, opening with a melodic and catchy pop-punk style track, commanding attention from the audience and definitely receiving it. They chose to debut a new song, “Sweet Tooth” which was apparently written that morning. Nice to know they’re actively writing, but I’d say that one needs a bit of work and might not have been the best choice for this show. Still not a terrible song, though. They also did well talking to the crowd, although it got a bit strange at points and I wasn’t exactly following where they were coming from, it was still pretty ok. Overall though I liked them, although I do advise against sunglasses at night. Not famous enough for that yet.

Closing the show was then night’s only metal band, Virulent Fiend. With their first song they got a pit going, which was pretty neat to see, and I was rather surprised by their vocalist. A small dude with (according to Randy Grey, and I do agree) a definite similarity in appearance to Justin Bieber, he put out a pretty big and deep growl that I wouldn’t have thought him capable of. Also neat. Although his stamina might need some work, but that’s alright. I was also loving the bassist, he really got rocking out. Overall these kids could play, and although thrash isn’t the easiest thing to play (but what is, really?) they did quite a good job of it, and I enjoyed their set. My favourite part? When the drummer screams “Stay brutal!” Made them the winners, as far as I was concerned.

Each band received a plaque for their participation in the event, but only one was able to snatch first place, recording time at SLR Studios, and a slot opening for Liverpool Echo, Windsor’s Beatles Tribute Band.

That band was State of Us (pictured above), so good job to them, visit Gil Maure Park on Saturday, June 4th to get a taste of why they won this competition.

All the bands did a great job though, congratulations on even having the guts to get up there, play, and have us tell you what we thought.

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