The Stone Church Brattleboro VT hosts night three of the Strangecreek Battle of the Bands on March 25 2019

Night three of the Battle of the Bands would be the final night of the first round. The winner of this night moves on to the regional semifinals next Monday April 1 2019 to face The Dirty Vice Band and Zillawatt to see who gets to go to Greenfield on April 13 at Hawks and Reed.

The three bands that night were Danny and the Parts from Burlington VT, Long Shadow Sheep from Franklin MA, and Reverend Dan and the Dirty Catechism from Springfield MA. Sometime before the show began, someone at the venue who had reviewed the bands ahead of time said, “None of the bands tonight are jambands,” with a bit of glee in their voice. They turned out to be correct, as the diversity of sound on these three bands really set them apart from each other and from the rest of the bands in the competition.

Danny and the Parts is an immediately different band than any that have been at the battles. From the opening notes, the sound was filled with twangy goodness – reminiscent of Son Volt, Wilco, of Route 66, the Jayhawks, lonely highways and honky tonk saloons. Hailing from Burlington VT, tonight they came as a five piece: John Rogone on drums, John Pappas on bass, a dedicated lady vocalist, rhythm guitar and vocals by Danny LeFrancois who writes the material, plus lead guitar. I wish that I had some old boots to scuff on the floor as the telecaster drives a bright yet dusty sound. I love this kind of music, and the first band of the night really brings it. Their set ended with what would be the first and only cover that I know about in this whole competition, Waylon Jennings’ Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line. The interplay between the male and female vocals was classic country and just super tasty, well done!

Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs.

Long Shadow Sheep was an entirely different animal, beyond doubt. They hail from Franklin MA, and on this night, consisted of an excellent drummer, bass, lead guitar, and a songwriter in acoustic guitar and singer. Their songs were emotional and contemplative, carefully constructed songs-poems. The band’s compositions and execution were of the highest quality, truly excellent. The pace was decidedly down tempo, extremely pensive. It may be difficult to connect with them on first listen, but those that do, may be more richly rewarded for their efforts. Band comparisons are hard on this one, but I would go with Fleet Foxes, David Gray and only the vaguest resemblance to the Dave Matthews Band. But comparisons are somewhat pointless with a band like this, whose sound is so personal and carefully constructed with dynamics that bring the listener into their world so purposefully, well done!

Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs.

And the final band of the night, Reverence Dan and the Dirty Catechism, was another super specific rare breed. First of all, they were visually interesting, with band members dressed with a theme and purpose – mostly black or white and semi formal. Drums, bass, keys, and of course, Reverend Dan on vocals and guitar. The band was super tight, and leaned in a bluesy, Americana, containing a punky edge and carnival barking controlled madness. Vaguely bringing to mind elements from Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band or Split Lip Rayfield to early Bruce Springsteen, very early versions of the Tubes and even the Mothers of Invention. The show and energy are as big of a part of their set as the songs and music itself. The second song, Our Love is a Circus Fire, I think it was called – was really great – a slow build to burning intensity (pun intended). It’s entirely possible that this band builds and progresses to be something really much bigger, or incinerates from their own intensity, and that we are witnessing a short but intense burst of musical creativity.

Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs.

Comparing these bands and judging them against each other is like wondering what is the best food between flapjacks, trout almondine, and Texas chili – all great and completely incomparable to each other. In the end, a winner must be chosen, and for that we wonder what might be the best fit at Strangcreek.

First, a few thoughts on the night collectively: each band had two things in common, despite their myriad differences. Each bass player was holding a truly beautiful instrument and something that was not standard issue. The bass player for the Dirty Catechism even talked to me for a few minutes about his: which he had made, featured hand carvings in the neck and body that were super interesting and the kicker: a headstock that when turned vertically, could be held up to your face as a mustache, brilliant! Second, each band had a truly amazing drummer, able to summon intensity in a flash and able to be a perfect pace setter for their band leader and songwriter.

But in the end, there can be only one and for the reason of Strangecreek appropriateness, Reverend Dan and the Dirty Catechism took the crown for the night. So Texas chili earned it’s spot on the menu for next week, though we can easily still love flapjacks and trout any time we’re hungry.

So the Brattleboro regional finals will be Monday April 1 and will feature the Dirty Vice band, Zillawatt, and now: Reverend Dan and the Dirty Catechism.