BANGOR — The Battle of the Bands started on a somewhat sour note Saturday afternoon because of equipment problems. However, the rock music competition eventually got into an entertaining groove.
Ten-year-old Dean Ingraham of Ellsworth was full of anticipation as he took a seat near the Paul Bunyan statue on Main Street and prepared to watch nine local bands strut their stuff.
“I’m going to college to be a rock star,” said the enthusiastic young music fan.
As equipment problems began on Saturday, the event itself, promoted by alternative rock radio station WWBX-FM in Bangor, proved to be quite a learning experience.
“Sometimes things get out of control and this happens to be one of those days,” Doug Hoyt, lead singer of Spilled Milk, said Saturday from the gazebo stage.
The public address system, or lack thereof, caused a more than two-hour delay in the competition.
Initially the group Dakota was supposed to supply the sound system for the Battle of the Bands, but the equipment was rain-damaged at a street dance held the previous night. Event organizers scrambled to come up with another band’s system.
Once a system was found and hooked up, the rock competition was ready to roll.
Many of the members of the small crowd had dispersed during the delay. The low attendance did not play well with the event’s beneficiary — the Children’s Miracle Network.
Director Pat LaMarche said the charity lost more than $2,000 on tie-dyed T-shirts being sold at the event.
The temporary setback also forced event organizer Glenn Ingraham of Ellsworth to limit each band’s set to 20 minutes.
“I learned that it can only get better from here,” said Ingraham, manager of the group Sylvatic Rant.
As the Battle of the Bands finally got under way, many of the groups jammed on electric guitars, drums and keyboards and showed they were worth waiting for.
Reach, Twisted Minstrals, Spilled Milk, G. Spot Diesel, Pack of Dogs, Serena Andrews, the Mundanes, and Boy Wonder all performed some of their original material at the event.
“I think a lot of bands need the outlet to play,” said Laura England, lead singer of Boy Wonder.
The 23-year-old Bangor woman bounced around the stage and belted out lyrics in hopes of winning the top prize in the Battle of the Bands.
“We’re definitely looking to go beyond Bangor,” England added.
The winner received a one-year promotional contract with Gator Bait Records in Rhode Island. Second place earned a six-month contract with the independent recording studio.
Jo Jo Gator of the record company and Richard Sanzi of Starlight Management Inc. in Connecticut judged the bands on Saturday.
The two men travel around the country to similar events to find new talent. They were rating musicianship, stage presence, and songwriting as they watched and listened to the Maine bands.
“The songwriting has really perked my interest,” Gator said of the local groups.
After the nearly eight-hour competition came to an end, WWBX-FM disc jockey Zak Ives announced the winners.
G. Spot Diesel, based in Bar Harbor, took the top prize, and Spilled Milk, based in Bangor, won second place.
After the Battle of the Bands, Sylvatic Rant gave a two-hour rocking performance.
“It’s gonna be a little bit loud so I hope you brought your aspirin and earplugs,” band manager Ingraham said as Sylvatic Rant took the stage.
Many of those attending Saturday’s event enjoyed relaxing in the sun and listening to the local musicians.
“We’re usually country music fans but this is nice too,” said 55-year-old Arolyn Hart as she sat in a lawn chair.
Others watching the competition seemed eager to get into the spotlight themselves.
“I play the spoons, man,” yelled 18-year-old Cliff Richard of Old Town.