Local Showcase, Sept. 5, The Venue 

Any evening spent at a show is a great night for me, especially when it includes free entry, good friends and really good music. On Saturday, The Venue hosted the Showcase Showdown, a competition for six local bands to show their stuff and see who, by audience vote, would win an opening slot for the upcoming Mae show on Monday, Oct. 19. I got in free by working the door—The Venue is always looking for volunteer help—outfitting attendees with neon-colored, glow-in-the-dark wristbands.

A showdown is a great opportunity for everyone involved. Local bands of varying styles play for listeners that they may not normally bring in, the audience is exposed to new genres and new bands and, since bands are trying to bring in more of their own friends to the show to support them, venues are able to bring more in revenue than they might on a normal night. And on top of all that, the touring band everyone is competing to open for is getting a huge plug of free publicity. Basically it's a four-way win-win-win-win situation. How great is that?

A couple of my friends' bands played, but mostly the night was compiled of acts that were new on my radar. Competing were punk newcomers Workin' On Fire who kicked off the night with an energetic, almost British-punk-scene influenced set. It was really cool to see such young kids creating a sound new to our area. Following them were indie folkers, Apple Horse. Audience involvement was big during their set, especially during the song, "Green Eyes," when we all sang and danced along to "ah-hee-ya" like a campfire sing-a-long. I always feel a little simpler and refreshed after an Apple Horse show. Next up, new alternative band, In The Pause, took the stage with a sound and presence that took me by surprise. Confident, yet humble, it was apparent that this group was simply stoked to be rocking on the stage. Stop, Drop, & Party jumped up next with an energetic pop-punk sound. Full of energy, they jumped around the stage with some of the biggest grins I've seen. They love to play their music like a kindergartner loves receiving his gold stars.

Indie-pop band My Paper Camera followed with their electric infused rock, while solo acoustic act Jeremy Snook wrapped up the night.

I love showcase nights because they're always accompanied by a totally different energy than a normal show, especially when a showdown is involved. You can feel the nervous energy from the bands—wondering if they'll win, what will the people who haven't heard them before think of them and what will happen if they do win—as well as listeners.

My Paper Camera co-founder and front man, Trevor Powers, said, "A show opening for a touring band or simply playing a local show is definitely more freeing because you know the crowd isn't going to be voting for you at the end of the night."

It was refreshing to see young, passionate people laying their hearts out on the a stage, sharing music they probably wrote while sitting on a bed and then worked so hard to perfect. At the end of the night audience votes were tallied and My Paper Camera walked away with the win.

"We have the best fans in the world. There are kids that show up to every show we play, pay the entry fee and keep coming back. And to have those kids show up to the showcase and vote for us means so much," said Powers. "The opportunity to open for Mae is another chance for us to spread our music. We know there will be a lot of people there who haven't heard us, and we're so excited to be able to share our music with them. We have all looked up to and respected Mae for years now, and to be able to share the stage with them will be such an honor."

Also on the roster for the Mae show are New York-rock outfit Locksley, and Arkansas-based indie band Deas Vail.

Tickets are available online at TicketWeb, in advance during another Venue show, or at the door. Mae will perform an acoustic set after the show for donations, which will go directly to the local chapter of Donors Choose. To find out more about Mae's community outreach, visit whatismae.com.

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