Each of the four finalists had 30 minutes to make their musical case for a $25,000 grand prize, $10,000 second prize, or $5,000 third prize. Radio Karma performed first with strong renditions of a variety of pop and rock tunes. Next was Damage Inc., a Metallica tribute with a phenomenal lead guitarist. We played third, and closing the night was Super Magnetic, a 10-piece with two amazing lead vocalists doing soul, R&B, and rock covers.
Each week of the competition, which started back on April 11 with 40 bands competing (five each week), the judges post to a blog with their thoughts on the performances. Here's what judge Ed Decker had to say about our show in this week's post, The Depths of Mordor (Dazed and Confused DSB’s the Finals):
Let's begin with the story's headline – "Dazed and Confused DSB's the Finals." By "DSB's the Finals," I'm referring to the Journey tribute, Don't Stop Believin', which veteran UMC fans will know, was the band who might have taken it away from Rolling the Stones last year. In fact, all three judges had them as being a favorite going into the Finals.
Alas, DSB booked a bunch of gigs over the weekend and the singer, Juan, had all but blown out his voice, plummeting them from a heavy favorite to the clear bottom position and why I now call these situations a "DSB moment." And man, I can't believe it happened again! Dazed and Confused, dudes! We begged you not to do that. We told all the bands, on the blog and on the mic, "rest your voices! Take the weekend off. There's tons of money on the line, please!"
In my mind, they were the clear frontrunners. After one of the most memorable performances in UMC history, when they played the eight-minute epic, "Since I've Loving You," I was sure Dazed and Confused would win first or second place. But when I ran into singer Jason in the V Lounge before the doors opened, and he told me he played four gigs over the weekend, I became concerned.
Huh? We played one gig, Saturday afternoon, and the cops shut us down after 45 minutes. Our singer, Jason, did his weekly all-request solo gig Friday night and refused to sing anything difficult. So whatever concern this judge had about Jason's voice before we even took the stage was unwarranted. I don't know how one and a half gigs got inflated to four, but I can't help wondering if it influenced the judges' perspectives.
When they opened with "Nobody's Fault," it was evident there were going to be issues, especially with vocals. "Over the Hills and Far Away" was a good choice, but also troublesome. Ditto "Ramble On" which started off like it was going to happen, but they couldn't seem to connect with it, as if they were lost in a dark forest of death and despair and couldn't find their way out. Actually, it was a section of the lyrics of "Ramble On" that underscored the situation.
"T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor…." Jason sang, and yes, it occurred to me, that's exactly where we were – where the band was – in Mordor, JRR Tolkien's fictitious netherworld which he described as "a dying land, but not yet dead. . . with coarse grey grass-tussocks, withered mosses and great writhing, tangled brambles."
"The Ocean," was another great set choice, but they were to deep in the thicket of Mordor now; there was very little they could do except wander through it aimlessly. I felt bad for them. I could see in their eyes they knew it was a miss.
The finale, their namesake, "Dazed and Confused," had moments of pure brilliance, and the breakdown would've been goose-pimple inspiring – especially Joe's guitar and bow action, and the call and answer between vocals and guitar – but, in order for a breakdown, or "come down" to deliver its full effect, it has to come down from a higher place. We have to have been emotionally soaring in order for the free fall plummet of a breakdown to do its magic on us. Alas, there was no great height from which to fall.
Again, huh? I can't argue with Ed's assessment of what he heard; I'm sure mistakes were clearer in the crowd than on stage. But at no time did death, despair, or Mordor cross my mind, and at no point did we think one of our tunes was a miss.
In fact, we had a blast playing up there. The sound system and crew were top-rate, some of the best we've worked with. The light show was amazing. And we demolished all five of those songs, in a good way. Whatever Ed thought he saw in our eyes, he read wrong. From stage left, it sounded and felt like one of our best performances, certainly the most intense half hour of music we've played in the ten months I've been with the band.
It was a great experience to play alongside such talented acts last night, but it felt pretty awful to walk away empty-handed after all the work we put in. I'll remember that next time someone tries to talk me into a battle of the bands. On the other hand, I find Ed's sensational narrative entirely forgettable. I'm really proud of my part in the show we put on, and I know my bandmates feel the same way. It wasn't perfect, but I'd take the whole thing, note for note, if we had to do it again.