The music industry might be in a major slump but that didn’t stop some 60 bands from giving it their all as they competed in the 17th Annual High School Rock Off. After six opening rounds that took place during the month of January, a total of 18 bands went on to the “Final Exam,” which took place last night before a capacity crowd at House of Blues. In previous rounds, it was usually very clear which bands would emerge at the finalists, but the “Final Exam” featured much more parity. In fact, midway through the tallying of the scores at the end of the night, organizers were astonished that no one band had emerged as a front-runner and any one of a handful of groups could have taken the top spot. It wasn’t until the last of the 14 judges’ scores was calculated that a champion emerged (and even then, there was an unprecedented three-way tie for third place).
An enthusiastic crowd of teens and parents attended the event, which started at 4 p.m. and didn’t wrap up until nearly 11 p.m. after a concert-closing performance by the local School of Rock. At times, it almost seemed like a battle between high school rival sports teams as some fans even brought home-made signs to urge on their favorite bands. On occasion, a mosh pit would develop when some of the punkier bands played. Fans were generally supportive of all the acts that performed. And the show offered a bit of everything, from alternative rock to funk, jazz and punk. Some bands, like Aurora/Stow High School’s Halfway Home, which veered from death metal to ska, even dabbled in more than one genre.
But in the end, Field/Tallmadge High School’s female-fronted alt-rock act Noize from the Basement — the band was a feel-good story as it was unable to perform last year because its drummer was diagnosed with cancer the day before the Final Exam — emerged a winner. The group received $1000 in cash and its high school band fund received a $200 donation. Band members also each received tickets to the summer Warped Tour at Blossom and the group will get an ad in Scene advertising its next concert. They’ll also have the chance to open a Live Nation/House of Blues and they’ll perform on Tri-C’s cable TV programs Crooked River Groove and Words & Music. Second place belonged to Evolution, an up-tempo rock band from Mayfield High School that played a mix of original tunes and covers, and third place went to the jazzy Aurora High School act Triple B Funk. You can see the winner announced here.