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October 9, 2015

The Next Great American Band: Auditions (series premiere)

by JJ Hawkins, posted Oct 20th 2007 10:03AM
The Next Great American Band judges.

(S01E01) Being that I'm an avid viewer of American Idol and So You Can Think You Can Dance, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect with 19 Entertainment's latest reality show, The Next Great American Band.

I expected to see our host and judges traveling around the country giving commentary on some brilliant acts, some mediocre acts, and some atrocious ones for comedic effect. We'd then watch the bands go through a series of auditions where the audience would get a better feel for their talents and some early favorites could take shape.

Finally, the judges would whittle the group down to a dozen or so acts and America would begin casting their votes on who they thought The Next Great American Band was. I figured it would take a good two or three episodes for things to really get moving, but it didn't quite happen that way.

Actually, it went nothing like that. 60 bands had been pre-selected from approximately 6,000 video submissions. Johnny Rzeznik, Shiela E., and Ian Dickson set-up shop in the heat of the Nevada desert and in the span of two-edited hours, narrowed things down to a final 12 that would be on the show.

I prefer being weaned into shows of this nature. I like watching the audition process over the course of a couple a three episodes at a leisurely pace where I can identify my own favorites, and observe how well they evolve or devolve. American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance have this format down to a science and I was kind of hoping of more of the same.

Instead, we got no more than a minute worth of each band's performance and from only a fraction of the 60 bands that made it to this point in the competition. It was hardly enough time to formulate a solid opinion on an act, but I guess it's what we have to work with, so we're just going to have to go with the flow.

At stake is a contract with 19 Recordings, home of some truly stellar acts like Carrie Underwood and Daughtry. (I totally had to force myself to type that last line). Guess there's not much else to do but take a look at some of the acts that were highlighted this evening, most of which will be voted on by America in the coming weeks.

Tres Bien

One of the guys in the band said they were "Raised by Records" during their intro. I thought that would have been a a much cooler name for their band. Instead, they are Tres Bien (very good) and there name is pretty accurate. They had a nice, retro-style that seemed like it could fit right in with some of the bands trying duplicate that old sound today.
I'd like to hear more.

Light of Doom

This group of precocious preteens and a 13-year-old were probably one of my favorite acts of the night, and I'd hardly call myself a fan of that style of music. The boys said they were influenced by Iron Maiden, but it was reavealed fact that their fact sheet said they were influenced by ninjas, boobs, and explosions. Strangely, that list consists of 33% of the things that influence me.

These kids absolutely rocked from a musical perspective, but they suffer from the same thing that every adolescent band has suffered from through the history of the history. Namely, immature voices are extraordinarily high, distracting, and some might argue (myself included) a bit on the aggravating side when it comes to music. I can't think of a single kid/preteen act that I've ever liked singing, well, except for Joey McIntyre when he was in NKOTB. He was dreamy.

Nonetheless, there is no denying these kids have talent and style. I also love their name. It's sets a great mood and isn't too serious.

The Hatch

This group played one of my favorite songs of all time - Use Me by Bill Withers. The music was definitely a tad on the Maroon 5 side, but the vocals were far from Adam Levine nasally which is a good thing. I loved their take on the song, but didn't think this group was anything spectacular.


Pain. Ears. Bleeding. Bad.

The Clark Brothers

f I was going to give this band a name, I'd call them the Chixie Dicks, because they reminded me of a male version of the Dixie Chicks. There's really not enough steel guitar playing in music industry today, but with any luck that will change someday. The group showcased a pleasant mixture of blues, gospel, and funk. I could see these three brother making it pretty far in the competition particularly if that guy in the back continues to play that little mini guitar (the real name escapes me) like he's possessed.

The Zombie Bazooka Patrol

Loved the song, but I'm a little bit confused on why a band would want to limit themselves to one schtick by wearing the ridiculous zombie makeup. Are all of their songs undead in nature? If so, they didn't think this through very well.

I just couldn't imagine anyone wanting to see an entire zombie related show or listening to a zombie themed CD. I'll take my zombies on the big screen and when I watch Thriller every Halloween, thank you.

Dot Dot Dot

The lead singer/Jared Leto/Jordan Catalano impersonator says this band has only been together for 5 1/2 months, but from the looks of their performance I'm guessing he was being facetious. I'm not sure what it was exactly but I liked this band. They look pretty seasoned, had great stage presence, and the song wasn't that bad either.


Rzeznick nailed it when he said their performance reeked of desperation. They came out with their sob story about being at this for eight years and this being their "last chance" to make it in the music industry. On top of that, the lead guitarist has been away from his family in New Zealand for the last three years. I'm glad these little sad tidbits didn't give them a free pass into the finals. There performance was atrocious. The judges seemed to think the lead singer was being let down by his bandmates, but I think the whole lot of them stunk up the joint. Strangely, they got another shot later in the show.

The Muggs

This band is the self proclaimed, "Ugliest band in the world." You've gotta love the self-deprecation. Cockiness in musicians is so annoying (I'm looking at you Kanye).

My wife thought this band sounded like The Who. I said, "who", and she said "The Who" as if I knew who she were talking about. Regardless of who they sound like, I really liked the snippet of a song we heard The Muggs play.

Gotchic Killer Clowns

We got an up close look at the lead singer of The Gothic Killer Clowns and his home life. I was absolutely shocked to see that he lived at home with his mom. I'm kidding of course. Did you see the guy? He was a mortal lock to live at home with his mom, and possibly have some bodies buried in the back yard.

Let's pretend there's a band out there somewhere in the universe, and let's just say that every time this hypothetical band played a song it caused the heads of any nearby listeners to explode. If The Gothic Killer Clowns existed in this same universe, they would still be the worst band ever. That's saying something.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra

12 members is way too many people to be in a band if you ask me. This band also happened to be playing one of my least favorite styles of music - but the judges loved it. Here's my prediction. If this band makes it, they'll be this show's equivalent of the American Idol crooner. They'll have a dedicated following that will get them through the first few weeks, but ultimately, they'll get voted off around week five once everyone remembers that the kid with the red hair (or in this case, the guy in the red suit) kind of sucks.

Six Wire

I liked this band a lot better when it was called Rascall Flatts. Just kidding, I don't even know what Rascall Flatts sings, but I wanted to make sure that joke made it into this writeup at least once.

This isn't my style of music, but these guys were very polished. I can already tell they're going to be a tough act to beat.

Cliff Wagner and the Old #7

Was it not hilarious when the lead singer started singing Like A Virgin? Was it not amazing how fast the lead singer could pick that banjo? Was it not crazy this band made it to the finals? I mean, they were good, don't get me wrong, but Is this really a band you think could win this competition? Me neither.

Franklin Bridge

I actually started questioning why there hadn't been any R&B or rap acts. Both of those genres had been sorely unrepresented up to this point.

I liked this band a lot. Great vocals, great music, and a good alternative R&B sound that I can't really equate to anything else in the music industry that I know of anyone. (And I don't know a lot. I don't even know who The Who is for crying out loud).

Heaven Bound

Not the way they just murdered that song. Next.


Just like there aren't enough steel guitars, there are not enough all girl groups making music these days. Back in the 90's we had Luscious Jackson and Hole. And yeah, there was a guy in Hole, but he kind of looked like a girl so I'm counting them anyways. These days we have Destiny's Child and Tegan and Sara. Is there anybody else? Probably, but if I named them it would completely negate my opening statement.

These girls did a great cover of Blitzkrieg Bop. Hi energy, perfect attitude, and nice outfits. Gurrlz rule!

The Likes of You

We only got to see these guys for about 10 seconds, but they're my early pick to win the contest. The lead singer had a Chris Martin like falsetto and was hitting some crazy high notes on tune. I'm expecting big things from these guys.


I've got nothing to say about this band, but I liked seeing Sheila E. get out on the stage and beat the crap out of those drums. I don't remember much about Sheila E. from back in the Prince days, (all I recall is Appolonia, yum) but apparently she's an amazing percussionist and has done some work with Ringo Starr. I like her 1000 times better than Paula Abdul already. Johnny Rzeznik wasn't so bad either, but I really could do without the Dominick fellow.

He made some of the cheesiest comments during the course of the show. He's obviously trying to fill the "mean foreign guy roll" that every reality show like this feels it needs to have, only - he's not all that great at thinking of creative ways to be an ass. Where's Simon or Nigel when you need them?

Northmont (Again...)

And again, they got their stink on. It's tough watching dreams get crushed, but not so much when they deserve to be.

The final 12 are below:

  • Tres Bien
  • Light of Doom
  • The Hatch
  • The Clark Brothers
  • Dot Dot Dot
  • The Muggs
  • Denver and the Mile High Orchestra
  • Six Wire
  • Cliff Wagner and the Old #7
  • The Likes of you
  • Franklin Bridge
  • Rocket
All in all I'm supposing this will be a decent time killer until American Idol is back on again. From what I've seen, it's definitely the red headed foster child of the 19 Entertainment family, but I've obviously only seen one show. It may get a lot better from here.

I'm also curious to see what the performance format will be like. Will they be singing original songs only (hope not), a mixture of covers and originals (a little better), or covers only (preferable)? One of my favorite things about AI is the fact that I recognize nearly every single song the contestants sings. It's a little bit easier to gauge if someone did good or bad when they are performing familiar subject matter.

Here's to hoping the producers make them play covers at least some of the time and make them put their own spin on the songs. They'd be doing us all a favor in the long run, trust me.

Favorite band of the 12 finalists?
Tres Bien45 (6.1%)
Light of Doom84 (11.3%)
The Hatch14 (1.9%)
The Clark Brothers159 (21.4%)
Dot Dot Dot71 (9.6%)
The Mugs68 (9.2%)
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra58 (7.8%)
Six Wire91 (12.3%)
Cliff Wagner and the Old #729 (3.9%)
The Likes of you25 (3.4%)
Franklin Bridge57 (7.7%)
Rocket41 (5.5%)

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Liz Barkas

I want to commoent on my own comment because I didn't realize that I made typos. this is the corrected version:
I was very dissappointed with the comment about Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. They came to my college last year for our campus Christmas and they were fabulous. One of the best concerts that I have ever been to, and I have been to a lot. Their style is one of the best styles of music out there. It defines an entire era in American History. It was key to our history. With the greats of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and others. This band is definitely in my top 10. Not to mention that there show is energetic and fun. They get the audience involved and you just want to get up and dance. Also, I takes a lot more musical talent to do what they do than what half of the famous bands out there consider talent. There is a lot more involved for them. Half the people i know can sing in a band like other "artists" but not everyone can do what Denver and the Mile High Orchestra does. They are unique and can stand out in the crowd. We need something a little different out there. Everyone else is beginning to sound the same.

October 24 2007 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Liz Barkas

I was very dissappointed with the comment about Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. They came to my college last year for out campus Christmas and they were fabulous. One of the best concerts that I have ever been to, and I have been to a lot. There style is one of the best styles of music out there. It defines an entire era in American History. It was key to our history. With the great of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Henry James, and others. This bacd is definitely in my top 10. Not to mention that there show is energetic and fun. They get the audience involved and you just want to get up and dance.

October 23 2007 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 23 2007 at 3:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok first, loved Marty Casey from Rockstar, but that format wasn't about picking the best person it was about picking the right person for an exisiting band, and as much as I coudn't stand JD he was right for them. And no INXS and Supernova aren't hits but the format for the show was actually quite entertaining.

But back on topic, I like the competition format but again this show is going to do two things wrong 1) have america vote (which mean's we'll never get the best band) 2) have bands perform in different genres (which i never even understood about AI and get less about this).

I honestly would give more credit to the bands that write their own original stuff, but I'm naive to think that most bands do originals at this point anyhow...

October 22 2007 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I take it the reviewer has never heard of "The Donnas" either? Good grief.

October 22 2007 at 10:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin Gamin

If anybody is interested, I interviewed Denver Bierman, lead singer and founding member of Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, back in June for my podcast. You can download the episode at http://www.drumcorpsplanet.com/content/view/1985/39/.

October 22 2007 at 9:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good point Cori. After all, who would have guessed that the most successful AI winner would turn out to be Country singer Carrie Underwood? That show is designed to churn out pop stars one after the other but the ones that buy the CDs are the ones that truly drive that business. It is very difficult to get much exposure if you're slightly out of mainstream and don't fit into the America's Top 40 format. Country artists in general have sold and broken formats more than any other genre over the past twenty years. They are incredible musicians and extremely tight as a band. Good luck to them.

October 22 2007 at 7:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok lets look at musical talent here.... Cliff Wagner is amazing, not many people can sing as well as him, not to mention how amazing he is as an intrumentalist.. Hate to break it to you guys, but bluegrass has a huge following.. He is probably the best instrumentalist on the show and you cannot get any better than his talent and sense of humor about the old judges reaction to his stule of music, who else could have or WOULD have thought of playing like a virgin like that.. John Resnick loved his music and lets face it, he is the true talent among the judges.. Talent sees other true talent, regardless of the genre of music. Cliff will go far.

October 22 2007 at 5:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good lord people...

writer-of-article: I appreciate your honesty, but I'm gonna say that if you don't know bands like The Who (at least know OF.. at least!), pass the task of writing about a show that's about music to someone with a little more background in it.

As for the rest of you commenters who don't know who The Who are: for shame.

October 22 2007 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 21 2007 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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