Ultimate Music Challenge 2010

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.

13 thoughts on “Ultimate Music Challenge 2010

  1. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the writeup. All those bands played great shows, but I’m still pretty surprised we got last. It will be interesting to see the judges’ scores and opinions on their blog tonight. Oh well. Regular paying gigs are where the real money’s at anyway.

    See you around.


  2. “Well at the end when they announced the winners it became totally clear to me… They announce it was coming from the Viejas tribe… so I guess the winners are who ever the tribe wants… I would actually be totally ashamed to be any part of this farce of a contest…I sincerely hope there is not a UMC 2011. If there is, all real musicians… STAY AWAY!”


    Everything you said above is SO right! I am still in SHOCK from the outcome. It was totally clear to everyone in the room who the real winner was, and the fact that Dazed got FOURTH PLACE!!!! was evidence of the total malfeasance of this so-called “contest.” This was fraud of the highest order, and I will boycott VIejas for the rest of my life because of it! I am even going to sell my treasured AIC floor tix.
    Thank you for expressing so eloquently the outrage so many of us felt last night.

  3. Hey Guys,

    It was an interesting night to say the least.
    I was talking with the judge Ed earlier in the night. He got some quotes from me, then the recorder went off and Ed said to me “we are off the record now”, so I dropped my guard and started shooting the shit. We talked about how he works at 710, then I discussed my new show at PB Alehouse (Wednesdays 9-12!) and I mentioned how crazy this week was for gigging and that this would be my fourth gig this week. I never said my voice was tired or anything…this was just assumed.

    He then discussed it with his wife on the record (I actually saw that happening and didn’t know it). She immediately put me in third place because of my comment. Then Ed told the other judges about it and posted my “off the record” comments all over the blog for everyone to read.

    I learned a very valuable lesson…be careful what you say to journalists! I feel as if that statement was my biggest mistake.

    Anyway, blah blah blah.

    The thing I am taking away from this experience is how awesome our friends/fans are. I have gotten to know so many good people and had some great times…up until about 9:45 last night!

    While we may not have won, we didn’t come away empty handed. Thank you all so much for your friendship and support. I speak for the band when I say that it means the world to us.


  4. I havta say, I completely agree. I’m a die-hard fan of one of the bands that made it to the semis but not the finals. Although I was sad my band didn’t advance, I was sure as sh** expecting Dazed and Confused to win! I thought all the input the judges had to say was like… WTF?? Really?? And you musical knowledge is based on what??? I heard every piece of crap like “why would you pick that song,” “I didn’t like the way you danced on stage,” “I think music stands are unprofessional”… THIS IS WHAT THE BANDS WERE JUDGED ON??? Petty sh** like that???

  5. I love you people, wow, there is finally people out there that see what was really going on, I performed in Week 8, and these 2 socalled unfit to judge anybody on anything just grilled us, I agree with all of you and especially after experiencing being totalled demoralized by these 2 space cadets Ed and Alicia, I think that this contest is vey unfair and they play favorites to their hometown people, I agree this contest should be BOYCOTTED!!

  6. was at Viejas for the whole Ultimate Challenge contest, which was my first experience with this show. I’m not part of any of the bands, and don’t have friends in any of the bands (disclosure).
    After several weeks, I got the impression that some of these bands are friends of the judges, you can tell that from their comments during the show, during the judging, and on the blog they maintain for comments.
    The bands that compete invest a lot of time and effort, but then the judging is slanted – a couple of weeks it was apparent that a certain band was friendly with the judges and those bands won their specific week, regardless of who they were up against. Two in particular were WAY overshadowed by the other bands, yet they won…. didn’t turn up in the semi’s because they weren’t that great – but thats not fair to the other bands that come into this not being a favorite of the judges.
    And to say these “judges” are fair in their assessment of the bands is a joke – and an insult to these hard-working bands that think this is on the level.
    Viejas is doing itself no favor by having this contest judged by three locals who are definitely biased. I came into this show not having any pre-conceived notion of this, but it became very evident by the end.
    A suggestion: we have several large universities with great music departments. Why don’t they get music professors who UNDERSTAND MUSIC to do the judging. You would have an unbiased assessment – and not have to feed them drinks all night long (the guy and chick judges).
    Very unprofessional.
    Just my opinion.

  7. Hi. I am a regular at the UMC’s (this is my second year) and I am also a regular blogger on the website. I just wanted to say, no matter how hard you guys all try to express that there is a ‘conspiracy’, or that the judges only pick ‘their friends’ as winners, etc., it is just NOT true. I think they just enjoy getting to KNOW the bands,(as I do)for future entertainment. I met alot of people from alot of bands, and now I can go watch them perform in other places. It’s just all about meeting new musicians in SD County. Also, I have met some bands from OC that came to play at the UMC competition. The competition is open to Southern Californians, NOT just San Diegans, I’m pretty sure. As far as “feeding the judges drinks all night”–
    David Patrone doesn’t even DRINK!! So, whats the excuse now?? I’m really saddened by all these negative comments. I am not ‘friends with the judges'( but I wish I WAS, because they ARE nice people!), I just met Ed last year, said ‘hi’ to Mr.Patrone last week for the first time, and have never even met Alicia. I don’t always agree with their choices for the winners, but, then again, I know NOTHING about music or stage presence, so I can’t judge them on it.. I was surprised that Dazed didn’t place at all. I met their drummer last year, and I love them! ( I didn’t know that they had done however many gigs before the show,blah, blah, blah..) but I felt that their FIRST performance ROCKED, and their final one, not so much…just my opinion…but THAT performance was the one they were being judged on, NOT the FIRST one!! I have had alot of fun at the UMC, met alot of nice people, have heard and met alot of GREAT musicians, and have come to realize that not everyone is going to be happy with the end results, but, one should not go blaming others, and the judges just call it as they see it.

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