I just got home from the Ultimate Music Challenge 2010 finals held at the Viejas Dream Catcher Lounge in Alpine, California and with ears still ringing, I am still in total shock. The big prize this year was $25,000 and to everyone’s surprise was awarded to a band put together just for the event called Super Magnetic, an R&B dance band featuring a very excellent female singer that already has an act at Viejas. This 10 piece band will most likely get a contract with Viejas to regularly play in the Dream Catcher lounge for a very lucrative contract for who knows how long on Friday and Saturday nights.
Second prize ($10,000) went to the first band that played tonight that basically phoned it in called Radio Karma and actually ended their set with a slow George Michael song, that we all thought secured their fourth place spot for the finals (no prize money). Which most thought was fine, since they most likely get a contract with Viejas playing in the V Lounge which brings in around $1,700 a night. Not bad if you ask me.
Third place and $5,000 dollars went to Los Angeles based Metallica tribute band Damaged Inc., that brought an entire busload of fans with them (good move). But their sound was awful and the songs they picked were not very well known. I was in the back and saw large groups people leaving during their set (something the judges don’t see).
The shocker and why many of us were in shock was that San Diego based band Dazed & Confused (Led Zeppelin tribute band) walked away empty handed. They won UMC week 4, won last week (along with Super Magnetic) and from what I saw had the second highest audience VU meter reading of the night. They ended their set with a rendition of the Led Zeppelin song Dazed and Confused that left many of us breathless. It literally took me five minutes to recover and calm down from their 30-minute set (all bands had 30 minutes tonight).
Dazed & Confused also brought with them a busload of people from San Diego to cheer them on (the only band that did this the two previous times). This band was also a judge’s favorite. The last two rounds this was the only band that the judges had nothing bad to say about and only praise… and plenty of it. Sorry, I forgot one judge writing the blog hates medleys which they did the first week. During the semi-finals this same judge even praised them for taking a chance, going out on a limb and choosing a slower Led Zeppelin song, Since I’ve Been Loving You which turned out in their favor! Isn’t that what a music challenge is all about, especially when there is $25K on the line? Something the judges have been harping on for weeks… well at least when I was there.
I think the sound guys at Viejas phoned it in tonight too. The last two times I have been there the sound has been good considering five bands playing each night, but tonight the sound was awful! All bands sounded pretty bad mostly because of the mix, which is strange because tonight they had the longest to setup. The worst sound of the night was actually Damage Inc. and strangely enough the winners Super Magnetic. At the end of their set I was putting my figures in my ears to save them from the high screaming pitches.
I was there tree times for the UMC, many of the bands I saw I wondered why they were in the challenge because the seemed more like Vegas lounge acts. Even the first night, I was wondering if they are just there to audition in front of Viejas people to get a job. Didn’t understand why they would use this contest to do so instead of just doing a normal audition? They pretty much played the same old lounge/ dance music… just different players. Then you have a few really great tribute bands that have been working years on their craft, like Dazed and Confused, Deeper Purple, Blasphemous Guitars and others like them that got totally shut out of this contest.
Don’t get me wrong, all musicians there tonight were awesome and deserve to be in the finals. I talked to many of them and wish them the best of luck (please don’t burn my house down). But in my mind, this was a real music competition for $25K and you had to turn it up to eleven!
At the end when they announced the winners it became totally clear to me. I didn’t know where this $40,000 of prizes money was coming from. I thought some of it might have been coming from the Vodka company sponsoring the event (no they just paid for keyboards for the local Alpine schools). They announced it was coming from the Viejas tribe… so I guess the winners are whom ever the tribe wants to play in their casino.
So I ran of out there before the people started rioting and came home to write this article. I wanted to get something online while the judges who are in the V Lounge having a drink and they write their opinions tomorrow. I would actually be totally ashamed to be any part of this contest.
I sincerely hope there is not a UMC 2011. If there is, all real musicians (non-dance bands)… STAY AWAY!
Click here for Part II of this article.