There seem to be two schools of thought on where exactly is the best spot to be in the line-up.
There's probably never been a contest where being named "the winner" is such a dubious distinction. In fact, with no official scoring system, no rules, no judge, and only the fuzziest of recollections the next day, there often isn't even a consensus on determining the winner. That won't stop a spirited competition at Last Band Standing IV at the High Noon Saloon on Friday, December 28.
Plopped right in between Christmas and New Year's for the second year running, Last Band Standing provides some terrific entertainment in what is usually a fallow week for music in Madison. It all started back in 2004 when Bob Koch of The Arkoffs (and Isthmus) put together a bill of four local acts which included his band, The New Recruits, The Randy Cliffs and The Motorz. All of the bands knew each other, but this was the first time they all played together on the same bill. This took on the atmosphere of a party, and Last Band Standing was born.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that The New Recruits were believed to be victorious that year. Kyle Motor of The Motorz defines the winner as "the band that imbibes the most spirits while still maintaining 'competence' at performing their set or at least stays entertaining." That does seem to be the most popular definition, although Bill Borowski of The Arge had another take: "After all is said and done, the only winners really would be the people not participating!"
The line-up changed only a little for year two of Last Band Standing, or LBS. The Randy Cliffs had broken up, but its rhythm section -- bassist John Weidenhoeft (or Wied) and force-of-nature drummer Tony Kanale -- formed Goat Radio in its wake. Motor believes The Arkoffs took the belt that year, declaring the group "blasted out of the gates with a terrifically fierce set."
Round three threw The Arge and The Runners Up into the mix, making determining a winner even more difficult. Motor narrowed it down to two contestants. "The Arge were at their Argeiest, that can not be argued," he says. "And I felt we Motorz played the best we've ever played, only nobody seems to remember it."
Borowski has similar thoughts on LBS III. "I've been told that we won last year," he notes, but "we're in dispute with The Motorz on that." Wied has other ideas. "I am told that I actually 'won' last year," he says. "I have vague recollections of chasing the bar staff around with a Sharpie and drawing mustaches on people. That doesn't sound too bad until you find out where I was drawing the mustaches."
For the first time, a band that remains active decided not to take part in the fourth edition of the contest. I wanted to see if the other bands would call The Runners Up "chicken," but they wouldn't take the bait.
"They're still recovering from last year!" claims Borowski. "Actually, I think they are the only band ever involved with LBS to be smart enough to decline the invitation. It does take a few years off your life after all." The real story, according to guitarist/vocalist Koch (who continues in his role as LBS organizer), is that the band is on sabbatical until their new album is complete and had already decided not to play out until then. Mmm-hmm...
This opening has been filled by Digibot. 'Yeah, we felt honored to be invited to take part in LBS this year," claimed Andy 'Bot before adding, "of course on the Saturday afterwards I'll probably be cursing their sadistic minds."
There seem to be two schools of thought on where exactly is the best spot to be in the line-up. Based what he's seen in previous years, Andy 'Bot is convinced that the earlier the set the better. Weid agrees: "You get on and off the stage before the other bands know what hit them." On the other hand, Borowski feels that there is no best spot. "The boozin' starts early so no one is safe," he says. Motor echoed that sentiment. "Playing last is kind of an honor, I guess, a show of peer respect in your musical/liver skills," he says. "But really, I think it's an honor to be on the bill anywhere, because it is a bunch of friends getting together at one of our favorite places to throw a great party."
So who will win this LBS IV?
"Goat Radio is the dark horse, they've done nothing but sound better and better every time I've seen them over the past year," concedes Motor. "Digibot is the wild card. They are known for bringing it, but can they hold up to the pressure of their first LBS? My gut says 'maybe.'" Borowski had similar thoughts. "Sheesh, I don't know, there are going to be a lot of seasoned livers on stage," he says. "We'll be awesome as usual, but, I guess if we weren't in the mix my money would be on Digibot. Those boys can throw 'em back and bust it out all day."
Andy 'Bot concurs they could "stumble away with the victory," but also thinks that The Arge may have the advantage after requesting the "hazardous" final spot in the show.
I'll go ahead and put my money on The Motorz; their pair of albums, All Day Long and All Night Long may have been the best local releases this year.
Don't tell the boys in the bands, but the audience is the real winner here. These are four of Madison's best bands, and they will be trying even harder than usual to impress. Yep, we are definitely the winners. Of course, that doesn't mean we are going to feel any better than they do the next morning.