We’re consumed by campaign season. All the talk of Clinton, Obama, McCain and so on has us spinning, for better or worse, in the most spirited presidential election contest since, well, we don’t know. But it’s big, and the size and scope of Decision 2008 has us comparing it to another epic battle taking place right here in our own backyard.
The third annual Pabst Blue Ribbon Band of the Year competition is the deepest and most diverse pool of talent yet. We could legitimately call any of the eight remaining bands—whittled down from 24 over the last five weeks—deserving of the title, which includes a pretty decent haul: $1,000 cash money, a free recording session at Habbilis Records, 1,000 glossy tour posters, a $300 gift certificate to Hausfrau Clothing Exchange and, most importantly, bragging rights. It’s not like they’re fighting to become leader of the free world, but we still think winning carries some weight.
So, in advance of the Thursday, March 6 final at The Other Side, we’re providing our own breakdown of the field, complete with a just-for-fun presidential contender comparison to let you know how we see the final polls shaping up.
Lazerwolfs How they got this far: By not giving one flying guitar pick what anyone else thinks. From the blissfully ungrammatical band name to a track record of lurking on the fringe of the music scene (they’ve been playing in some form since ’85), this trio epitomizes, as Bob Wire wrote, “rock with a capital F.”
Why they’ll win: A vote of respect to the scene’s middle-finger-waving elders.
Indy’s campaign comparison: A cross between wildcard Ron Paul and Howard Dean, in full “yea-ahhhhhhh” mode.
The Hermans How they got this far: Book deals, Dave Jones’ scissor kicks and overall showmanship have carried The Hermans’ blue-collar brand of garage rock into the PBR finals for the first time.
Why they’ll win: Few bands try to connect with a crowd like frontman/guitarist Jones, guitarist Chris “The Count” Knudson, bassist Cale Younce and drummer Derk Schmidt. Gregarious is the word that comes to mind.
Indy’s campaign comparison: Pardon the elephant, but it’s got to be the feisty John McCain. The Hermans have a similar balance of quick wit and stick-to-itiveness—and a knack for always rising to the top.
Black Velvet Elvis How they got this far: Olivia Britz, let us count the ways we love you. The lead singer for Missoula’s best new band has absolutely captivated us—and many more, judging from BVE’s growing crowds—with silky vocals and a knockout stage presence. And could there be a better guitarist to play her lolling surf rock than Joe Danger, formerly of The International Playboys? Give us a second, we’re swooning.
Why they’ll win: Britz carries a room, plain and simple. They’re probably a bit too green to win this year’s crowded field, but consider BVE a band that’s arrived.
Indy’s campaign comparison: A vampier Chelsea Clinton.
iNHUMANS How they got this far: Humor and hip hop are a precarious mix for white boys from Montana, but band co-founders and dueling MCs Austin Valley and Kyle McAfee usually strike the perfect sarcastic tone.
Why they’ll win: Being the only hip hop entry helps and the full band—horns and all—can get crowds dancing. But we wonder how seriously the judges will take tongue-in-cheek tracks like “Smelly Hippies” and “Put the G back in Jesus.”
Indy’s campaign comparison: The perpetually dissed and yet widely loved—especially Missoula—Dennis Kucinich.
Walking Corpse Syndrome How they got here: Bands featuring dueling drummers—in this case brothers Shawn and Greg Frazer—are always better. This industrial metal band is no different, rising quickly in the local metal scene after starting less than a year ago.
Why they’ll win: Never underestimate Missoula’s metal contingent, ironically a pretty quiet set until events like this one bring them out of the woodwork. (Although, we worry about a split vote between WCS and fellow metalheads, Blessiddoom.)
Indy’s campaign comparison: Ralph Nader, mostly just for their band name.
The Good Neighbor Policy How they got this far: A year ago, GNP entered this competition with oodles of potential and a penchant for off-nights. This year, the polished indie rock quintet with a tinge of honky tonk enters as a frontrunner.
Why they’ll win: Tight rock sets bolstered by James Palmer’s elegant keys and Bethany Joyce’s cello. And frontman Thomas Pendarvis ain’t bad, either.
Indy’s campaign comparison: The brutally efficient, increasingly admirable Hillary Clinton. (Bonus points for Pendarvis and Palmer also being former Arkansans.)
Blessiddoom How they got here: Together since 2004 and a staple of the local metal scene, Blessiddoom blew away the judges with an earlier performance that featured red police lights and go-go dancers.
Why they’ll win: In addition to their theatrical aesthetics, they’re engaged in dedicated grassroots campaigning. The band’s been distributing a totally kickass poster of them in the middle of a PBR logo in an attempt to get out the vote on Thursday.
Indy’s campaign comparison: Mitt Romney, because on paper they look pretty damn formidable, but we’re not sure there’s enough here to carry the ticket.
Reverend Slanky How they got this far: Last Friday at 11:30 p.m., a line of 30 or so Missoulians—couples in formal attire, bearded hippies, Badlander-type hipsters—stood twiddling their thumbs and smoking butts outside an at-capacity Union Club waiting to see this eight-piece crew’s raucous funk show. And they waited. And they waited. That just doesn’t happen very often.
Why they’ll win: When asked if he was waiting to see the band or waiting to meet friends, one hirsute hippie outside the Union said emphatically, “They’re the best band in Missoula, man. They’re even better than, say, Miller Creek.” Um, yes they are.
Indy’s campaign comparison: Right now, they’re rocking rooms like Barack Obama. Yes we can! Yes we can!
The PBR Band of the Year competition concludes with all eight bands playing at The Other Side Thursday, March 6, beginning at 8:30 PM. $10.