Black + Blue
This extremely young-looking band opened the show with a set of slow, scrappy songs that sounded uncannily like Sic Alps. Only time will tell whether the kids have discovered Bay Area garage rock or not.
The St. Valentinez (winners)
The post-Nick Martin St. Valentinez, with singing drummer William Randolph taking their former vocalist’s place, came on and performed a scorching number driven by seething organ and solos from just about everybody. Rapper Alex “Frak” Fraknoi was present on the mic as well, although all the instruments and voices seemed to blend together into one blur of solid funk.
Another younger group with a fairly deadpan female singer, Upload was too flat to rise up to the semifinals.
Black Bones (semifinalists)
Trio Black Bones lay somewhere between the Buzzcocks and the Edgar Winter Band in terms of style and aesthetic. Driven by extended solos and a teen garage aesthetic, this trio managed to sprawl out for miles in less than five minutes. During their semifinal round, they decided to shift to a more funky sound, a move that did not benefit them much.
Kings of Malevolence
These dudes sounded like Pantera with a Terry Jones drag character on lead vocals. Nothing more to say here.
Following Comodo Complex’s set, the show became far more interesting. This quartet played lush psychedelia with a bebop backbeat, creating a bizarre and colorful atmosphere. Despite their ill-advised and offputting tempo shift, their music was able to generate a wave of good vibes that remained until the end of the show.
Souled Out (semifinalists)
This soul trio, led by singer/pianist Manuel Berry’s atmospheric keyboard playing and ridiculously amazing pipes, brought holy light into the room with a passionate soul song that brought applause and awe in equal measure. Their semifinal song, a cover of Israel & New Breed’s “New Season,” was as, if not more, awe-inspiring.
Room 19 (semifinalists)
Room 19’s songs were nearly impeccable, based around classic chord progressions (their first song even had a vintage 5-4-1 progression during parts) but warped and distorted behind a wall of sonic decoration. The solos, reminiscent of Neil Young, bounced across the room like impalas before disappearing back into the haze.
The SHE’s (2nd)
Returning to the GenSF Battle of the Bands after the rather ugly incident with Rikoche at the last one (rumored to have escalated into a full-scale riot, but almost certainly untrue due to it being an awesome rumor that you should spread), the SHE’s (nicknamed "the Cheese" by Frak) ran through their cheery power-pop ditties with skill but a bit less tightness than usual. Their sunny songs nonetheless blazed their way to second place.
Romance of Thieves
Plagued by technical difficulties, this enormous ensemble, led by former St. Valentine and current R&B antihero Nick Martin, nonetheless put on a remarkable and coherent set. Martin moved fluidly back and forth across the stage, interacting with the audience and band members alike with no regard to technological hinderances or incompetent roadies. I spent much of the night wandering around the Metreon area with most of Romance of Thieves, discussing vague plans to storm the stage after the show and form some sort of loose artistic contingent.