Popularity vs. Talent? 

You decided at the Northwest Quest for the Best Band Contest finals

I've never been a big fan of those "Battle of the Bands" style competitions. They tend to lump together groups from all different genres-judged by a panel of so-called "experts" or even worse, the audience members themselves. Indeed I was leery when assigned to write about local metal mashers Paylface and their recent victory in the Big Easy's Northwest Quest for the Best Band Contest. First of all, this contest seems more than a tad off-at least in its name if nothing else. As I understand it, the competition began with preliminary rounds at the two Big Easy locations: ours here in Boise, and the other concert house in Spokane. Entrance into the contest was pretty much just an open call for bands within a vague geographic circle centered on those two fine metropolitan areas. Press kits were sent in, and a field of contestants chosen based upon some semblance of merit. Now, I'm no geography expert, but I do know that Spokane and Boise as representative of the entire Northwest is taking a fairly narrow definition of what it means to be from the Northwest. In fact, it seems counterintuitive to believe that an up-and-coming band to be dubbed the "best" of the Northwest would come from anywhere other than Seattle or Portland. I know how entirely snobbish and almost defeatist that statement sounds coming from a proud Boisean, but I'm being realistic here. However, looking at the contest for what it really functions as-promotion and exposure for local bands with limited means-one can hardly take too much offense at something as trivial as its name. 

In their two-year existence, this is the first contest Paylface has entered. Their decision was based on the fact that the Northwest Quest for the Best Band Contest was well-sponsored with a more serious air to it than comparitive competitions. So I'm not the only one who's grown weary of these "band battles." This was no popularity contest-judges scored the bands on criteria such as stage presence, music originality and talent. That cannot be said for the two or three similar contests I remember from last year alone. Paylface assured me they take their music very seriously-their talent and dedication helping to secure them the title of Boise's best. No small feat, considering they had to beat out the very fashionable ska/punk outfit the Pirk-Q-Laters (Boise's fave Boy Band) and the incredibly talented Stella in the final round. I personally couldn't imagine having to judge and compare those three bands-seems very apples to oranges to me, but I digress.

I've often heard Paylface smirkingly referred to as Boise's heaviest band. Their punishing brand of metal is a feast for the ears, and lead vocalist Ayn Aaron's presence is . . . well let's just say the music isn't all that's heavy about Paylface. I wonder how many Tad Doyle or D. Boon comparisons he's had to endure throughout the years. A fixture within the Boise metal community, you might remember his work with Brawl back in the day. As mentioned earlier, the band got together a couple of years ago when Ayn teamed up with lead guitarist John Mays and soon recruited drummer Kitmus Ignatious and L.A. transplant Mike Link on bass. Unfortunately I cannot report that the seemingly strange moniker "Paylface" was born from some fanciful tale of a chance encounter with some Native American mystic, but I do have to give them props for the Wyld Stallynz-esque spelling (Bill & Ted, anyone?). In their short career, they've already managed to gain a sponsorship deal with Jager, land a distribution deal with Century Media, and they've even shot a video that should be out in April. Dedication is not lacking with these guys.

Last Saturday, the lady and I managed to weather the extensive frisking to get into the Big Easy and check out the finals. Paylface vs. the winner of the Spokane contest, Half Halo. The latter band was onstage when we arrived, and let me say I was not impressed. I'm not knocking Spokane or anything, but this is the best you got? Fairly generic and unoriginal metal, and they even covered a Stone Temple Pilots song. Ouch. Unfortunately, my own band (not the best in the Northwest) was called to fill the void left by a touring band with vehicle problems, and I had to head down to another venue before the Paylface rockage ensued. From the music I checked out on their Web site (www.paylface.com) they should have no problem winning. But, as the final winner will be decided based on an online vote (on the Big Easy's Web site) and not Olympic-style judges, in the end I know it will be a popularity contest.

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