As is tradition in the Boston music scene, April marks the month of the WZLX-hosted Rock 'n Roll Rumble. In its 35th year, it's one of the most legitimate city-wide 'battle of the bands' in the country — not simply an amateur affair, but a celebrated event showcasing the best in Boston's rock scene.
This year's preliminary round of shows went down over the course of six jam-packed nights last week, but the action returns tonight with the first of two semi-final nights at Cambridge's T.T. the Bears (10 Brookline St.). We listened to the eight remaining acts, picked a few favorites and look forward to good-hearted competition.
Night one (tonight, 9:30 p.m., T.T the Bears) can best be described as a night fit for stadium rock, rather than the 300 capacity venue that all of the bands play for the second time (after winning their respective prelim rounds). None of these bands seem to care about indie rock trends, instead invoking the genre's precarious '80s and '90s past. Western Education seek to bring soaring '90s alt rock back, both Maine's When Particles Collide and Petty Morals can call allegiance to Joan Jett. Prog rockers Await Rescue, on the other hand, could be called Boston's local Incubus.
OUR PICK: We've got a soft spot for synth-y dance rock, and these six women do it well. Petty Morals' debut effort, The Lemonade EP, is a record full of catchy electro-heavy cuts, including the barroom jam "Tight and Outta Sight."
The second night of the semi-finals (tomorrow, 9:30 p.m.) butts up against the first, featuring bluesy, folksy and poppy shades of rock. Tigerman WOAH!, the banjo-toting five-piece, lead the pack in success (slotted for the May's 'Boston Calling' fest and recently returning from SXSW), but they've got competition. FEINTS are the best rockers, led by the fiery Amy Douglas. Gooddamn Draculas are the vets in the group with years of Boston punk roots. Barricades are by far the poppiest of the bunch, but don't disregard them on that basis — catchy choruses and tight songwriting make them a sleeper candidate.
OUR PICK: Whiskey totin', '70s rock-influenced FEINTS make it a tight one, but we're going to have with punk vets Goddamn Draculas. Their single "Don't Be Afraid" doesn't exactly bring anything new to the table, but it has modern rock radio written all over it.