Three more worthy contenders were knocked out of the Acoustic Live Challenge this past Thursday night, moving John Bowyer and The Knollwood Boys on to join the top contestants at the semi-finals.
Altus Snow started us off with a solo filled with upbeat songs that instantly grabbed the crowd’s attention. His Funk/Rock fusion proved real talent on the guitar. Unfortunately, his restrained voice only showed glimpses of the power he could unleash. This resulted in songs that had animated potential but remained flat.
Next up, a clever arrangement which promised both artists an appearance in the semi-finals if either was picked to move on. Junk Box Mike took over the stage with his guitar for some “hill jackin’” music that was backed by John Bowyer on mandolin. His first two songs promised an energetic set with some fast paced, knee slapping music that made you want to sing along, even if you didn’t know the words. By the third song the energy slowed down. And even though the songs were nicely composed with a plethora of visual lyrics, it left you wondering where the opening punch had gone.
John Bowyer then traded places with Junk Box Mike as the front man and took the crowd on a back road ride. Visual lyrics provided a montage of snapshots from his life in a way one could connect with, even if you hadn’t grown up in rural country. New songs often produced new instruments as Bowyer rotated through the guitar, banjo, and mandolin while backed by Junk Box Mike on upright bass. Throughout the performance he also engaged the crowd with jokes, referencing things such as the little hand steeple commonly made by children, and his wife’s first car named “Sun Chicken.”
A change of pace took over as The Knollwood Boys’ self-proclaimed Whisper Rock/Folk sound filled the air. To stay in line with the rules of only three performers on stage at a time, Brent Bockelman (guitar and back-up vocals) rotated with Nate Ayedelotte who cleverly worked in percussion using a wooden box, a tambourine and some shakers. Kit Clouser, also backed by Steve Webb (bass and back-up vocals), led the group with several laid-back songs that had emotional topics ranging from a friend passing away to finding that special someone. Although the topics were often darker, the sounds of the songs projected them in a charming illumination.
The final performance by Jamie Carnes supplied a sturdy end to the night’s competition. He provided some striking vocals that suffered slightly with quivering high notes that may be attributed to his admitted nervousness. Songs included “Familiar Stranger” about an attractive young woman he saw at an airport, and “Long Gone” about massive alcoholism. His talented guitar skills were accompanied by a friendly, yet reserved interaction with the crowd.
The results of the night’s competition is John Bowyer came in first, with The Knollwood Boys in second, Jamie Carnes third, Junk Box Mike fourth, and Altus Snow in fifth. The battle continues this Thursday night at The Ugly Monkey with a new line-up of possible finalists. Come help support the growth of local music for just a $5 cover scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.