Show review and photography by Dakota Horbaczek.
For the 11th year in a row, 105.9 The X, a local radio station in Pittsburgh, partnered with Hard Rock Cafe to hold the Winter Rock Showcase with a mission to help stimulate the local scene. The Winter Rock Showcase is a battle of the bands with a chance to win what might be referred to as a “local band starter kit.” This grand prize consists of cash, professional recordings, video shoots, and a guaranteed spot to open for a national band. This year’s crop ranged from funk rock to progressive metalcore bands.
This night’s round of the competition had a six-band lineup all sharing the same stage: Mourning After (Greensburg, PA), Horus Maze (Pittsburgh, PA), Standard Broadcast (Pittsburgh, PA), A Little Less Human (Pittsburgh, PA), Fallen Kingdom (East Liverpool, OH), and Special Reserve (Pittsburgh, PA). Bob McLaughlin, co-host of The X Morning Show, was the host of this event. He came to the stage not only to introduce the bands and talk about the show, but to also thank everyone who comes out to support the scene.
The first band up to bat was Mourning After. They came out with a rockin’ sound similar to that of Velvet Revolver. Every song they played was easily just as good as the song before it with one exception: “Suffocate.” This song had an appetizing rhythm accompanied by the lead singer’s haunting vocals that made for a song that stayed stuck in your head. Mourning After were, without a doubt, a fantastic start to the night.
Horus Maze was the next contender in this fight. Firing on all cylinders, this band came out swinging with every ounce of energy they had. Their style is similar to that of the great classic rock band AC/DC. The energy of this band was most prevalent in their frontman who never stopped moving during their entire performance. At one point during a song, the two guitarists had a shred-off, going back and forth showcasing their equal talent. The crowd roared in applause as they finished their set.
Pittsburgh indie rock band Standard Broadcast changed the pace of this concert. Their set-up was a little different; they took out the bass guitar and swapped it with a cello and keyboard. Their unique style was best showcased when the cellist used his boot to balance the instrument on stage while directly next to him, the lead singer played his keyboard which rested on top of a hollowed-out stereo from the 1940s. Their pace, lyrics, and tone relaxed you into a state where you could move to the music without a care in the world.
A Little Less Human is a funk rock band that placed 3rd in last year’s competition. While this band is typically a duo, a third member joined them for this occasion to enhance their funky sound. Every song they played was on point while their namesake “Warchild” was where they truly excelled. Every note from the steady guitar was backed by the drummer who never missed a beat. An infectious sound made its way to the first couple of rows of the crowd who couldn’t help but dance. When the final chord was struck, the crowd wanted more but the show had to go on with the next act.
The next band Fallen Kingdom came out screaming like melting faces was their business, and based on their powerful sound, business is good. This metalcore band showed how united they were by coming out wearing the same shirt which displayed their band’s logo. From the first note to the last, this band always stayed in sync to the point where every member did a little two-step at the same time. The signature song for them was “Victimized,” a song that is meant to connect with anyone who was bullied in high school. They brought guitarists on stage from a previous band to do a Kamehameha, which is a move typically used by the character Goku in the Dragon Ball anime series. They finished their set off with a new song titled “Set in Stone.”
Closing out the night was Special Reserve, who gave the crowd a classic rock sound that was reminiscent of Cream and ZZ Top. The reggae and blues-fueled rock band hit you with everything they had, not giving you a chance to think about any other band but them. On every other song, they switched lead vocalist which showed each vocalist’s diversity and range. “Better Off Dead,” the final song they performed, showed off the killer rasp of their bearded vocalist. The power of this final track made sure that they did not go gently into the good night.
As the last band finished their set, the crowd made their votes one-by-one while the judges came to their decision. Each and every band gave it their all, and with such a diverse lineup it was not an easy decision to make. The stage gave the bands plenty of room to showcase their abilities while giving the crowd a chance to get up close and personal with them.
Bob McLaughlin, who had been introducing the bands all night, came back on stage to announce the winner of round 2. The winner chosen to move on to the finals and be given a chance to win the coveted prize package was Horus Maze. They will be playing with the other three finalists on February 24th at the Hard Rock Cafe. Local music was truly alive and celebrated at The Winter Rock Showcase.