Project Independent the worlds ‘only’ independent metal showcase brought it’s traveling talent search to McGuffy’s, it’s only Ohio stop besides Cleveland, Saturday September 29th critiquing 6 bands each vying for a shot at the next level of competition and the coveted spot of Project Independent Featured Artist. Since its inception in 2006, founder/CEO Jeff Totten, a former member of Indecent Xposure and Raising Cain has traveled the world looking for the newest and hungriest home grown talent ready to show they’ll do whatever it takes to succeed. 2012 has taken P.I. across the country making forty-six stops choosing winners each night through a strategic point system based on musicianship, showmanship and workmanship and the competitions fierce for one of the richest prizes in the Indy scene.
To get on the list all Showcase Artists must register, make a deposit and presell tickets to earn spots. Totten says it’s the first step in seeing how much they’re willing to work for it. In return all performing artists receive promotional materials, special offers and are eligible to receive promotional air-play by Project Independent Radio. The day of the show bands are given a thorough 90 minute workshop explaining P.I., its history and a breakdown of the critiquing system. Included is a straight forward no BS discussion about industry issues on the business side including trademarks, copyright and distribution, and the roles of agents, promoters and venues. Totten warns you must be emotionally, mentally and psychically ready for this business and all the rigorous pitfalls and temptations that come with it. Many bands think they’re ready but they don’t have a solid understanding of the business dynamics. If fact he often tells musicians if you’re not serious and can’t handle it, quit, because down the road of success ‘THIS’ is what awaits you. Totten wants bands already operating with a professional mind set and mission statement with their !@#! together that he can mold/prepare for professional opportunities that will draw people and numbers. He looks at how much they’ve already done on their own. He’s not looking for the weekend bar band. He wants the next national/global touring act that wants to become household names. After each night’s Showcase he discusses his critiques with each band. So at the minimum all bands have written/verbal advice from a touring industry professional on where they are in terms of song writing, structure, performance, appearance and what they should do next.
The business is a lifestyle and he wants an artist that will represent the genre well.
In-cohesiveness is not an option. The industry is always changing, transitioning, adapting to new trends and of course… always looking for the next big thing. Speaking of, the best artists from each event will advance to The Final Selection Process and a shot at the Holy Grail of Indy Metal. The winner will be chosen in December determined by their Showcase Critique Score, An Industry Panel of record moguls, producers, touring musicians and fan voting….(no pressure). Voting polls open 12/01-12/30. In case of a tie, the artist with the most fan votes wins and will be announced as The Project Independent Featured Artist of 2012 on January 1st.
The winner will receive a 60-day promotional tour with headline performances at each Showcase venue and a $5000 cash allowance. In addition they’ll get an industry showcase at The Whisky A-Go-Go in Hollywood, a crowned jewel in itself. One full length retail ready CD with 8-panel, Full Color On-Disc Printing, Barcode, Spine Label and Shrink Wrap. Distribution on Amazon, I-Tunes, You-Tube, Snowcap, etc. including a digital store with downloads, ringtones, CD’s and t-shirts. But wait, there’s more. Merchlive.com will offer the Featured Artist choice of $1000 dollars in Costume Merchandise. They also receive top quality equipment and upgrades from sponsors including but not limited to Peavey, Schecter Guitar Research, and PAiSTe.
So if you don’t think selling a bunch of tickets and performing/playing your ass off for 30 minutes is worth that then you’re definitely in the wrong business. Totten and crew told a few stories of band fights on stage and a particular sobering one about a band whose singer disappeared and the band had to cancel, two weeks later he was found shell-shocked saying he couldn’t handle the pressure. See, all Showcase Bands are not only performing for the crowd, fans and Project Independent, at each show there’s a four camera free webcast streaming live the whole night. So on any given night, 50-80,000 plus around the world are watching.
At some point Totten wants to produce bio segments about the bands, filling the between set down time and eventually have a 24/7 web based music network. You know, what MTV used to be back in the day. If nothing else at the end of the night all bands know where they’re at and what they need to do to move forward. The most important thing Mr. Totten wants made clear is WE ARE NOT A BATTLE OF THE BANDS!!!!!
An impressive list of Dayton/Columbus locals and Kentucky, West Virginia and Maryland’s finest filled out the bill. The Showcase began with state capitol’s Prosper opening with an incredibly unique light, catchy groove metal sound. If such a term as heavy bubble-gum music doesn’t exist, it does now. Singer Xavier McAllister’s words were surprisingly clear and distinguishable in his harmonies and it bears noting he did actually ‘sing’. Though dressed in flannel and thick beard, he hardly resembled the clean cut, suit and tie pretty boy look he was vocally borrowing. Guitarist Sam Ralph resembles Shadows Fall’s Brian Fair with a slight haircut and played the Cemetery Gates inspired Empty with a little bit of Dimebag in him. Bassist Adam (Tree) Watson used all of his 6’8 to make an impression. I’d say he stood in the background but anyone standing front stage center back to Burkhardt Rd would say he was the background. They played a set filled with youthful energy opening with Horizon, a tune that you’d swear you were watching a heavy version of The Wonders. Symphony of Sinners was next followed by Angel which may be the new power ballad of this generation and the dirty/slightly grimy guitar sound of Disillusion. Their sound is a consumption/corruption of bubble-gum, 80’s, early 90’s metal influences revamped with a modern day delivery.
Louisville Kentucky’s Johari Window stormed the stage ready to assault, rage and decapitate. They definitely brought out the Carcass tonight for all to see and hear in all its smelly, stinky, grindcore glory. Singer Connor Hill even borrows some pipe work from Jeff Walker, including clean melody and a few other choice demon lunged deliveries. It’s Deception At Its Best. Some slow, dirty chug hits hard granite breaking sound with sledgehammer strength. Connor stalked the front row die hards ‘showing love’ screaming in their faces and trading fist bumps. Hey, it’s how some metal singers show affection. Betrayer slowly slithers up to you with its unexpected slinky ‘charmer’ beginning then attacks like a drill-gun to the head. Just to make everyone do a double take they break out a keyboard which Hill plays on The Begging Dead, quite possibly ‘the’ heaviest song in mankind’s history to bear piano notes. A Johari Window was a psychological tool invented in 1955 used to help people better understand their mental instability. Not a bad idea for a band name considering the five-some could cost any headbanging/thrashing listener a brain cell or two.
Deep from the mountains and rough, jagged terrain of West Virginia come Elohim. It’s time to get freakin hateful yells Gibby Haynes look-a-like Tyler Lowe as the rough, gruff mountain boys throw out a sound as loud, strong and potent as the special ‘shine’ made in them parts. They play with a rapid fire acupuncture delivery that sounds like Bigfoot trampling over some very large rock formations. Their music is like a pick hammer to the temple inducing granite clusters and minerals to fall from unscaled heights. Lowe’s beastly growls sound like what might be heard coming out of a dank darkened cave late at night. Lyrically their very in tune to the Demigods, in Monolithic terms of course. I mean really, how many polycephalic (more than one head) beasts and monsters are in the average metal bands songs? They very well could be the ‘gods’ of mountain metal.
Alright gear-heads, time to rev up the engines with Springfields biker metal’s answer to Overkill meets Chrome Division, Chronic Aggression. Singer Joe Stafford spits out a raspy Udo Dirkschneider/Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth style and seems to have perfected the art of slow motion headbanging. There’s plenty of Motorhead menace and attitude to go around. They play us on a blazing burning ride on the highway to hell and you don’t have to be cursed to feel like your skulls on fire. Opening with If Only they played ReverbNation tracks 6ft to the Rythm, Your Demise and What You Gonna Do. Guitarist Issac Shotts played half the set sporting sunglasses so the futures gonna be bright.
2011’s Project Independent winner The 10th Hour took the stage showing why they earned the coveted title Featured Artist. Having a unique almost un-namable sound, they play with the ferocity that helped earn them the nod of Totten and approval of some of Hollywood’s elite judges. They get to play almost every night spreading the holy metal gospel. The 10th Hour comes when the bell gongs, Bryan Hillis growls Zim Smith/Ryan Eiker thrash out a smashing guitar sound playing off each other trading riffs, solos and some comedic comeradery. They perform like they really feel the music going through them. A minute into the 10th Hour they’re Silencing Trepidation and the loud angry beast within trying to tear through. We get Apathy’s Embrace and maybe the only 51 seconds of the hour that’s not loud. They summon the Nexus of Your Fears and it sounds pretty scary. New tune and You-Tube video The Incarceral shows a slower, softer but still dark sound and the inner hell of addiction. Travesty sounds like you’re in an underground street fight smashing against stone walls. Their sound is a mix of fast paced, pounding guitars, solos, vocal screaming/yelling and harmonious singing. A very different mix of musical mind-bending for the poor soul standing ready with a label stamp. Their CD Tides of Despair is as intentionally diverse and changing as their stage show. Once you’ve got an idea of who or what they sound like, the next song starts and your back to zero. Maybe some frenzied frustration’s a good thing but none the less they’ve procured the 10th Hour sound to perfection. Several tracks deal with the struggle/battle/war with inner emotion and torment. Each tune is of a different variety and delivery but carries a certain lyrical gloom with a sliver or two of hope cut through the warped planks. Tides of Despair lets the music do all the talking.
We finish with Dayton’s Coffin Birth Conspiracy a spooky scary movie blend of sound and keyboards intermixed with the shrewd rebellious evil of youth. Beginning with Haddonfields Curse, its October after all. We all love Halloween’s most lovable, namesake, silent killing machine right? Though the throat of the band Ian Overkill, looks just old enough to remember the re-makes. They spread Dark Pandemonium everywhere Through the Depths enriching the atmosphere with icy shivers and murky ambiance. They should be writing soundtracks for Italian horror movies. Taking elements of 80’s, black and symphonic metal they’ve mingled and mutated into a catchy sound for any stage or movie screen. Next we hear Wilhelms Scream, the song not the sound effect. Wikipedia has all the details. CFC is a six person horror film showcase in itself, no costumes needed.