My colleague and I, The Pitch's lovely calendar editor, Crystal Wiebe, judged yesterday's showdown at HRC's Battle of the Bands at Crosstown Station. There were two battles on two stages: The upstairs, in Press Lounge, held the day's acoustic acts, and downstairs, the electric bands rocked out on Crosstown's larger stage.
Dumptruck Butterlips took the honors in the electric category, thanks to the band's soulful, boozy bluegrass tunes. Blame it on my raging girl-crush on the washboard player (or just the fact that someone played a washboard at all), but Dumptruck Butterlips captured my heart within the band's first few numbers.
During some smoky, lazy backwater numbers featuring the band's bassist and lead male singer, two of Dumptruck Butterlips' lady band members broke out sparkling hula-hoops. (Who knew that hula-hooping could border on the scandalous?)
The runner-up in the electric showdown, the B'Dinas, scored major points in my book after segueing from a sax-led, funky jam into a swirling, soulful take on M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes."
Here's the scoop on the acoustic acts, courtesy of Crystal Wiebe:
The upstairs battle was all-acoustic. The winner was the day's final performer, Heather Thornton, whose level of showmanship blew away her competition.
Exhibiting zero fear of the stage, Thornton owned the crowd from the moment she took over the mic. She urged the audience to keep the donations to HRC coming and, between songs, managed to find ties between her lyrical themes and the purpose of the evening.
Thornton played more original songs than some earlier contestants. Her musical style is a bit like traditional singer-songwriter meets world, meets cabaret. She plays the keyboard and sings, accompanied by a djembe player. A highlight of her set was her final tune, an "unconventional love song," for which the hooky refrain is "fuck off."
The second most memorable acoustic artist was Nicki Scruggs, a hot, young thing in a short, sapphire dress. Like Thornton, she commanded the attention of the room with her attire, her pipes and her playful-bitchy stage persona. Scruggs played a mix of country-pop covers and originals, including Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead." And although the willowy brunette's act bears distinct similarities, during a transitional mouth-off, Scruggs lumped Taylor Swift into a list of three things she really hates.