Battle brings great variety: Controversial semi-finals set stage for July 30.

The competition heated up Sunday, July 9, as Cornbred Blues Band, SkyHi, Keith Walker and Destroy by Design participated in the Rockstar Band Battle semifinals.

All four bands were quite different, focusing on blues, funk, country and metal respectively.

The Cornbred Blues Band had a rough time of it at the semi-finals, a bad enough day to write a great blues song. They were late, lost a drummer and the singer had a broken foot. Luckily, it wasn’t the foot that he straps a tambourine to. It was a soulful show, but the transitions between songs were sometimes as long as some other bands’ tunes.

SkyHi’s crowd was not as thick as the last round when they reigned supreme, but they funked it up enough to impress the judges again. They covered Parliament’s “Mothership Connection” perfectly and segued it into Dr. Dre’s version of “Let Me Ride,” also originally by Parliament. It was back to normal as the ladies were back onstage dancing.

Keith Walker and his crew brought their modern country with a vintage twist and performed a diverse set.

The only negative comments they received their first night were about their bassist. They got another one since then, and he was quite an improvement.

The last act of the night was Destroy by Design from Nashville who indeed destroyed the competition in the first round just a week before, putting more energy into their set than anyone in the battle yet, getting their crowd all riled up.

This also happened at the semi-finals. They brought the people once again and the singer stage-dived and crowd-surfed successfully. I don’t think that has ever happened at the Bluesboro.

Before these guys even get up on the stage the crowd gathers impatiently waiting for the adrenaline rush that is Destroy by Design.

DBD took both the judges and the crowd, but due to some confusion with the voting, the night was declared a tie between them and SkyHi.

The next week at the semifinals Penguin squared off against Sharif Iman and The Bryan Turner band.

Penguin’s steady, tight grooves bring to mind a jam band, but that’s not quite so as every note is planned to perfection. Great harmonies and melodies make up Penguin’s strong sound, blending music from ’50s, ’60s and ’70s with modern rock. They covered James Brown’s “Superbad” with no horn section and still did it nicely. Way to make it your own, bravo.

Sharif Iman then took the crowd off guard by playing an unexpected version of “Creep” by Radiohead. Kind of a depressing opener. “What am I doing here?”

Huh, good question. The song just came through as unpracticed. The rest of the set list was strong and powerful. Iman has an uplifting vibe with great musicians who give off tons of energy.

The closer for the night was The Bryan Turner Band playing Southern and blues tunes mixed with more commercial-style songs.

After all was counted and recounted, it was announced that Iman had won. It was a close call, almost another tie. The crowd was definitely in favor of Penguin with 78 crowd votes to Iman’s 1. However, the judges’ score totaled enough to put Iman just 5 points over for the win. The three judges each picked a different winner.


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