Sister and brother Allison and Jaden Rockwell warm up before opening the 2014 Battle of the Bands Wednesday evening at the Appalachian Fair. (Photos by Max Hrenda/Johnson City Press)
As Allison and Jaden Rockwell were warming up for their set, they looked at their competition and realized they were the youngest musicians on and around the stage.
Allison and Jaden, the brother-and-sister members of Just Bcuz Music, were the opening act for the second annual Battle of the Bands competition held at the Appalachian Fair’s museum stage on Wednesday evening.
The Church Hill-based Just Bcuz Music was one of six bands, all of which heralded from Northeast Tennessee, to compete in Wednesday’s competition. Despite their age difference, Allison said she and her brother weren’t intimidated by the competition.
“They’re all adults, and we’re the only kid bands in this,” she said. “We’re not cocky, but we’ve got confidence. And we gave it our all.”
The competition itself was organized by Melissa Brock, one of the fair’s 30 directors, who admitted that, for her, the contest is one of the fair’s more pleasurable experiences.
“I’m a huge music fan,” Brock said. “I’ve got to meet a lot of people are read the bios on all the different musicians that are in the competition. It’s been wonderful to get to know all these people, and get a chance to hear what’s going on with them, musically.”
As a music fan, Brock said it was also rewarding to award one group of musicians with the competition’s grand prize, $500 and a three-song demo that will be recorded and paid for by the Boones Creek-based recording studio, The Sound Asylum. For Sound Asylum co-owner Troy Whitson, the $1,500 total cost to his business is well worth the prospect of helping local musicians spread their sound.
“That’s really what we’re about at The Sound Asylum,” Whitson said. “We are a business that records a lot of the local bands in the area. We want to support them, get them out and get people to see them.”
To win The Sound Asylum’s grand prize, however, bands had to do more than herald from the region. To come away victorious, bands were judged on appearance, originality, showmanship, skill, their overall performance and crowd response.
Crowd response would prove to be a hurdle, however, because of weather conditions. While the contest was originally slated to begin at 7 p.m., the threat of storms caused organizers to rethink that time and begin 22 minutes early, while a majority of the 750 available seats were empty. Despite the early start, and threat of rain, Allison said she and her brother were prepared to perform.
“I was psyched, pumped up and ... had a fun time,” Allison said. “Who cares if it rains? I was ready to go.”
Just Bcuz Music covered three songs during their set from artists Janis Joplin, Ben E. King and Lynyrd Skynyrd, in country stylings. In addition to country, according to musician Mark Holloway, the competition offered different variations on several genres.
“You’ve got hard rock, sweet country, hard country and regular rock,” Holloway said. “It’s a good group and I think it will be a really good competition.”
Holloway added, however, that his band, Southern Rebellion, for which he plays harmonica, doesn’t fall into any of those categories.
“(We’re) hard-driving country,” he said. “It’s country with some kick.”
Ultimately, Southern Rebellion was able to “kick” its performance into high gear, and walked away with the evening’s grand prize.
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