One of the things I’ve discovered recently is how difficult it is (at times) to write or talk about things. Some people find it much easier than I do, but lately, there are lots of things to say – but the words definitely get in the way.

At the same time, I got out this past weekend for a little adventure and caught new local bands and these stories are easy to tell.

Thomas RoarkSweevie joined me Saturday night and we descended on Gatsbys for Ansley Robert’s Local Music Showcase featuring several new rock bands including The Crossing, Rusted Clean, Ablazing Grace and Pilot. I’ve never seen any of the bands live and the energy from these new artists have inspired again about our regional talent. All of these bands were are fun and terrific and will be worth watching for the rest of the year. Best of all, I finally some decisions and new contacts for the upcoming concert at Kingsport’s Fun Fest 2006.

Here are photos:
Pilot Photos
Ablazing Grace Photos
Rusted Photos
The Crossing Photos

For the past couple of week’s I’ve been trying to put together the entertainment roster for the GoTriCities Homegrown Music Showcase and thought this would be a good way to start.

When we arrived, I was glad to pay the $7.00 cover, because we had a discussion earlier in the week on The Buzz music forums about this very subject. Seems some bands want to make sure they fill the hall and the guest list is awfully hip, but woefully costly to the bands.

Nevertheless, Ansley was as enthusiastic as ever. It’s easy to see how much he loves the business and since I hadn’t seen him in a while the only thing different was the fact he looked a little wiser and laid back a bit. He’s easily the most successful promoter in East Tennessee and I’m really glad he’s turned his attention to local bands.

Alan Prince, the “Sound Buddha” was setting up the stage for all the bands and it’s always a treat to hear his engineering so we were excited about the show and you could feel it.

All the bands were hanging about the room tonight. Thomas Roark with Pilot had his posse’ near the front door and Tom Bettini was at the end of the bar with a Muleface t-shirt on. The Crossing was seated around the bar and a bit reserved. Ansley introduced me to the guys with Rusted Clean whom are among his friends. Interestingly, the lead guitar player played with an old band Morgan La Fay – an act from the early nineties that intersected with my own band – The Watch.

It was close to 10.30 when Ansley introduced The Crossing. I’ve been reading this band’s dialog on The Buzz for several weeks and know them more by their lyrics and sophisticated original music which reminds of European rock The Cure, U2 and The Killers. Their music is intelligent and polished and their lead vocalist has a good presence in front of the three other players in this band.

Their vocalist Matthew has a Savoir-faire and is certainly passionate about his music and that comes across in his lyric too. He’s complimented by Stephen on a hollow-body Gretch who plays with large chords and effects that create a surreal soundscape that is elemental for their modern rock sound. Evidently, they both moved here from NYC and are working real hard to make their way and their music is promising, stylish and memorable.

The audience responded well to The Crossing and after their set, Rusted Clean was ready to turn up the heat. Ansley was telling me about these guys earlier. He’s good friends with the guitar player and rightfully extols his sharp decisive edgy guitar skill. He’s joined by two brothers on bass and drums and together they are a tight bond for the aggressive trio sound that emanates from this trio from Elizabethton. Their bass player is a terrific performer too and has a good time with his effects to create a fresh new sound.

Steve used to play with the old Metallica era Morgan La Fay band and we had some great moments talking about a mutual friend “Steve O” whom he used to perform with some time ago. I couldn’t help but admire his hat too and he was easily one of the better guitarists on stage for this showcase.

I’ve known Tom Bettini for some time now and watched him perform many, many times. We’ve even had the luxury of being on the same bill. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to make of his new project when he told me the stories about going to Bristol with those guys from “Omega Tribe,” but ‘stop the press’ these guys are boiling with potential.

Omega Tribe was legendary metal act from Bristol who have produced great stuff over the years. Tom started working with these guys back in the fall on this new “original” project and they completely surprised me with a new set list that blends, metal, rowdy rock and a little of southern rock into a cauldron of possibilities.


The new band is called Ablazing Grace and features Tom on bass, Scott Thomas on drums, Pat Carter on vocals and Steve Gilbert on guitar. These guys have been writing rock and roll tall tales with the energy of tornado too as their music is loud, proud and swirling with new energy from the mountains of East Tennessee. I’ve kidded with several of my friends suggesting this band would make a great soundtrack for Deadwood fans.

Pat Carter is towering and carries a lot of intimidating charisma onstage. His voice has all the grit and grunge of a great metal vocalist. His live performances are even better than their EP, but my only critique is for the guy to lose the baseball cap. He’s got the pipes and he’s got a presence – he doesn’t need to hide it behind the bill of a baseball cap.

Tom Bettini’s enduring bass lines are in-sync with the locomotive energy of Scott on drums and together, these guys are seething with dangerous spirits lurking in the machine compliment by Steve Gilbert on guitar. Although not the thrasher player you usually find in bands like this, he’s creative and poetic with his choices he makes as a player and plays harmonica as a solo instrument complimented by big twangy guitar riffs that gives the band an edge.

I bought a Crossing CD and one from Ablazing Grace. Both of the bands are too new to have full-length projects. I drove around Sunday listening to ‘Trainwreckord’ from Ablazing Grace and was impressed that the audio is an exact duplicate of the stage performance. They have the ability to blend harmonicas, gothic southern rock metal, angry brashness all cooked up in pot of soup beans and cornbread and make them a true original course for the region’s best original sound.

All the bands were terrific tonight. Ansley was telling me a little about some the showcases he’s planned and other prior shoes. He particularly mentioned they had a terrific one the night before with Pale Orchid, Adam Cloninger’s new band and Pilot featuring Thomas Roark. He and I both feel these two vocalists are some of the best male vocalists for melodic metal in the area.

I’ve been a fan of Thomas Roark since his work with his former band Blindsight. They made some changes about a year ago and their new band Pilot is a bright shining siren of modern rock in the Tri-Cities. They deliver a dose of high-energy sophistication that is brooding with possibilities.

I never imagined they would fill Dave Shirley’s guitar work either, but they sure have with Drew so and so. He even looks a little like Dave with his bald head, tattoos and horn-rimmed glasses and he played the hell out of his guitar. It’s funny how when you think you’ll never be the same, you find out you end up a little better and that’s what I gathered about Pilot.

Everyone on stage seemed really pumped about their performance and they brought a tour-ready attitude to the club that night I had to mention. Thomas told me the band had been traveling to some of out-of-town gigs and sharpening their stage show and it shows. I snapped a lot of pictures tonight and one of my favorites is Thomas lunging forward to the crowd. He continues to be a enigmatic vocalist with charisma and passion that steers this new super-sonic aircraft onto the scene in the TRI.

Their music is well-rehearsed, far forward, dark and powerful and the songs are some of the best written metal arrangements I’ve heard recently. Reflections is a featured song on GoTriCities this week and it sounded better than ever from the Gatsby’s stage tonight.

Gatsby’s a great venue. Big bar, plenty of room and one of the best live stages to play as a musician, but with all its grandeur, I still like Halo and The Hideaway. We said goodbye to the folks at the showcase and made our way down the street to the sound of horn-laced band at Halo an all-girl owned bar in downtown JC.

There were some gorgeous woman out front minding the bar and I’m always impressed by the bar-keep. According to her Myspace website, she’s a Virgo like me and I guess that explains her obsession as this club is one of the great little local spots we always like to visit. It’s fun, hip and I like the smart-girls that hang out there in the Halo coven.

As I mentioned, sometimes it’s hard to write a story that’s difficult to tell, but after driving around with my other problems today, this new music on my my mind and the memories the weekend performances, I’m glad I went, because it helped solved some current issues back at the office.

These bands were great tonight and a couple will definitely make the cut for our show in July. In the next day or so, GoTriCities will announce the 2006 lineup for the Homegrown Showcase and I’m making offers to some of the bands we talked to Saturday night and look forward to a magical night of entertainment.

This year, Fun Fest is heavily laced with Country and Bluegrass, but the GoTriCities Showcase will feature the best Modern Rock bands in the region and this night helped settle some of those ideas.

Our lineup is almost complete as of June 14th, 2006. Here’s what we’re hoping for;

– The Only
– Pilot
Ablazing Grace