Rock 'n' roll bands know there are steppingstones to success. You go from your buddy's garage to the high school stage to a corner in a noisy local bar ...
The Hard Rock Cafe is a significant step.
Tonight, the Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square puts the power of its national name behind the 105.9 The X Winter Rock Showcase 7 Finals (produced in association with Drusky Entertainment).
Four local bands have survived a three-month trial to compete in tonight's final. The winning band gets a handful of prizes, including $1,000, radio exposure, and the right to say, "Oh, by the way, our band won the 2013 Winter Rock Showcase at Hard Rock."
No small claim.
Roy Martin-Smith has been the local Hard Rock sales and marketing manager for seven years, and this is the seventh band competition.
"It's a great way to experience new bands," he said. "And the bands definitely develop and increase their audience. Everybody comes away happy with the results."
The competition began in December with local bands invited to submit MP3s of their music. These were posted online and listeners were encouraged to vote for their favorites. The top four finishers advanced to the semifinals.
A panel of industry judges -- from radio, recording and music -- then culled the submissions for another 11 groups to join them.
These 15 bands competed in groups of five over the course of three weeks in January and February. The audience and the judges combined to pick three winners, and then the judges tapped a fourth.
Tonight's lineup -- in order of selection -- is comprised of Klaymore, loveSICK, the Nick Marzock Band, and Coastal Remedy.
Mr. Smith shared his synopsis of the four bands (which we've touched up with bits from the bands' websites).
"Klaymore is kind of a throwback to the Metallica-Megadeath sound, with synchronized guitar work and heavy drums," he said. "The lead singer has a high-pitched Geddy Lee of Rush kind of sound structure." Four guys that have been together since 2007, their heavy-metal influences range from Eric Clapton to Iron Maiden.
"LoveSICK is more '80s, kind of with The Darkness vibe. There are three of them, including a female bass player." All three are 2003 graduates of Keystone Oaks High School, and they've been together as a trio for three years.
"The Nick Marzock Band is four people backing up Nick, who's a local singer-songwriter," Mr. Smith said. "They're more poppier." Mr. Marzock favors blues, rock and soul and says he is heavily influenced by The Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer.
"Coastal Remedy -- I kind of found them to be a prog-rock vibe, like Radiohead." The four band members hail from Indiana, Pa., and parallel their sound to that of Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Pink Floyd. They call it "post-psychedelic rock with the radio-friendly 'catchiness' of alternative rock."
Each of the bands will play their own set, including a cover of a U2 song of their own choosing. A little touch of "American Idol."
True confession time: I know one of the members of loveSICK. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jesse Rick is the son of Dan Rick, a former editor at the Post-Gazette. I asked him to share his take on the competition.
"We were actually all really nervous," he said, speaking for his bandmates, Chris and Julie Harford of Scott. "We'd never played the Hard Rock before, and it had been a while since we played in any kind of competition. And then we checked out the other bands and it seemed like we were up against some pretty good competition.
"It was a great vibe from the crowd that night, and we definitely felt like we had a chance. And we had a great amount of support coming out for us. As soon as we started playing the songs, it seemed like all the nerves went out the window. We executed pretty good."
I asked him if it's more than just playing good songs and playing them well. Do they also have to put on something of a show?
"Well, you can't just stand there looking like a statue," he said. "I guess some bands do that. But we actually look like we're having fun, because we are. And now, we were all saying it's funny, we don't feel as nervous this time."
Jesse said his group had checked out the competition online and all the bands look pretty good. That doesn't surprise Mr. Smith, who has followed the progress of past winners.
"All the of them have had success, but we haven't had one become nationally known yet," he said. "Last year's winner -- Wine & Spirit -- is having a CD release party at the Hard Rock on March 9. They all get exposure and more notoriety, and they're still out there playing the clubs.
"I would love to see a band take that next step out of here and make it really big. You know, one of the greatest band competitions in the city was the Graffiti Rock Challenge, back in the day. I think Rusted Root and The Clarks came out of that. Ultimately, I'd like to see us keep building this competition like that."
The first band goes on at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $7, and you'll want to hang on to your ticket because the back of it serves as your voting ballot. Audience votes amount to 40 percent of the decision. The judges have the rest of the say.
Check it out!
Get a preview of tonight's event!
Nick Marzock Band: http:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMvlieCTkiw
Coastal Remedy: http:/www.reverbnation.com/coastalremedy
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/