Charleston station 98 Rock's two-month 98 RockFest Battle of the Bands series finally came to an end on Tues. April 17 at the Market Street Saloon in North Charleston after several rounds. All three finalists — For What It's Worth, Sheldon, and the 33's — powered through numerous PA glitches and delivered tight, upbeat, riffy performances with plenty of positive energy and swagger. Several hundred friends, fans, and family members showed up to support three local groups. The Saloon's lady bartenders put on several sideshows of their own, dancing in synchronized fashion atop the main bar during and between sets.
In every round of the competition, bands perform brief sets in front of a full audience and a panel of judges. 98 Rock's on-air staffers Nikki Crawford, Laura Lee, and Matthew Potter were on hand for the finals. Crawford acted as the event's emcees, and worked in the judge's panel alongside local singer/songwriter Reid Johnson and drummer/studio engineer Eric Rickert (of Ocean Industries). Each band was scored on performance, originality, musicianship, and "star power." Audience members voted at the end of the night as well. The final scores combines the judges' scores and the final vote tally.
On Tuesday evening, the four-piece For What It's Worth hit the stage first. A line of fans and wearing matching band T-shirts stood at the lip of the stage. Led by charismatic, prowling frontman John Llewellyn, they shredded through a handful of original metal tunes, many with syncopated rhythms and hard-hitting grooves. The PA cut out completely on them at one point, but Llewellyn and his bandmates made the best of it and never seemed zapped or distracted.
Up next was Sheldon, a trio of old-school Walterboro guys who were quite active in the metal side of Charleston's band scene in the late 1990s and 2000s, but took a lengthy hiatus in the 2010s. I heard from Rickert that they'd only been back in the swing for a few months when they entered this competition. Lead singer and bassist Daniel Garvin, guitarist Hodgi Garvin, and drummer Keith Smyly were so tight and solid, it seemed as if they'd never taken a break. Their crunchy prog-rock stylings, impressive technique, and deliberate approach earned praise from the judges. Even a slowed-down blues jam (with some Hendrix-style teeth plucking from Garvin) wowed some of the punks and metalheads.
Veteran local punk band the 33's closed the show with a blazing set of originals from their recent album Sons of Iniquity. Nathaniel Irvin and his four bandmates sang, hollered, and jumped around as the set accelerated. They knew how to build the energy level with their crowd, and they even oversaw small mosh pit during the last few songs.
The scores and popular votes were quite close at the end of the night. Sheldon won first place. For What It's Worth won second. The 33's took third. The top two winners earned slots on the main stage and side stage at next week's 98RockFest concert on Fri. April 27 at the Exchange Park Fairgrounds. Visit my98rock.com and marketstreetsaloon.com for more.