The fourth round of the 17th Annual High School Rock Off, which took place yesterday afternoon at House of Blues featured another 11 bands competing for a spot at the upcoming Final Exam. Like Round 3, this round was dominated by hard rock acts. Ironically enough, the hard rock acts weren’t the ones that advanced to the Final Exam.
The hard rocking Kevlar started the four-and-a-half hour concert off with a bang. While the band’s music was a bit derivative of the post-grunge that was so popular in the late ’90s, the Erie-based band benefited from terrific musicianship. The band regularly plays clubs in town and even had CDs for sale. The members of M4, another band out of Erie, were technically too young to advance to the next round but decided to compete anyway just for the hell of it. Their female singer’s voice often sounded shrill, but the youngsters held their own against the older kids, delivering a set of original material and a few covers (include their take on Muse’s “Hysteria”).
Hawken singer-pianist Austin Tucker opened with a cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” that he rearranged for piano and he then played a set of original tunes that showed off his terrific voice. He ultimately would have benefited from the backing of a band but his ballads still sounded sharp even without being accompanied by anything other piano. Aurora High School’s Triple B-Funk started its set off with a couple of jazz and funk instrumentals. Their set improved noticeably when they added vocals to the mix. Highland High’s Still in Limbo played a set of original alt-rock tunes that sounded inspired by Pink and Avril Lavigne and Northern Whale then offered a set of mostly original alt-rock tunes that sounded particularly well-crafted.
Deadfall delivered a noisy set that didn’t benefit from the fact that band members seemed out of sync. But the lead singer had lots of energy — he hopped atop the drum riser at one point — and graciously thanked the concert organizers at set’s end, making it hard not to root for him and his band. Noize from the Basement, a band that sounds a bit like Paramore, showcased its original music in a good set. A trio from Willoughby South High School, Lake Effect offered a good set of original indie pop, including a song the singer said he wrote when he was in fifth grade. DiGregoria, a moody hard rock band out of Avon Lake, turned up the volume in their set that followed, nicely paving the way for the hard rocking Hold No Grudge, a finalist from last year that delivered a post-grunge set that went over well with the crowd.
In no particular order, three winners —Lake Effect, Noize from the Basement and Triple B-Funk — were announced at the concert’s end and all posed for a photo. They’ll compete again in the “Final Exam,” which takes place on Feb. 9 at House of Blues. You can watch the announcement of the winners here.