Maybe it’s just the fact that hundreds of ears are still ringing from last Thursday night’s epic and rib-rattling whatzup Battle of the Bands final round at Columbia Street West, but it’s as if the crowd, assembled that evening to hear the four finalist bands competing for top honors in the two-month long contest, got collectively whacked over the head with one helluva large dictionary, and in that dictionary was A New Definition.
Billing themselves as “catchy, party metal music,” A New Definition riled an already primed C Street crowd with their deceptively simple rhymes, hot and heavy guitars and the kind of drumbeat that gets in your bones and stays for days. They beat out local favorites Teays Vein, Krimsha and Verge of Submission for bragging rights as the area’s best original band, not to mention a hefty prize package that’ll pave the way for the band’s first full-length CD (still untitled) to be released October 30 of this year.
A New Def’s lead vocalist/bass player Jed Francis, said he couldn’t believe his ears when the Battle’s host, Jerrdog of 98.9 The Bear’s “Local Licks” show, started reading off the fourth- and third-place winners – Teays Vein and Krimsha respectively.
“We really expected to be at the bottom of the list,” Francis said. “I mean when you’re going up against the likes of Teays Vein and the other bands who really brought it you don’t even begin to imagine being number one. Then Jerrdog said something about the band with the sexiest hair, and I knew we’d won. I couldn’t believe it.”
There’s a lot more than sexy hair to this foursome who got their start eight years ago as Stranded. When that act fell apart, Francis, along with Stranded drummer Andy Dobmeyer and lead guitarist Brian Shaffer, formed A New Definition. Together the three friends put out their first CD, The Taste, in 2005. Later, rhythm guitarist Matt Wermert joined the band, bringing with him a heavier sound and a love for riff-rock.
“We’re more metal than we used to be,” Francis said. “We’ve got a new sound, and it seems to be working for us.”
Working, indeed. A New Definition owned the Battle’s finals with a screaming setlist that included “Swollen,” “After the Fact” and “Drive,” the kind of metal party anthems that had the audience raising not only their glasses but entire pitchers in their honor.
“It was amazing, man,” Francis said. “That’s what we do. Those are the kinds of moments we live for. It’s great when you’re up there playing for a lot of people and you can feed off the crowd. It’s indescribable. It’s a great time.”
A total of 32 hopefuls entered 2009’s Battle of the Bands, bringing with them high hopes, hordes of loyal fans and amps set to 11. Chances are if you walked by Columbia Street West on a Tuesday or Thursday night this summer you got a small taste of a battle that has raged since early July when the preliminary rounds kicked off. There were heavy metal bands and classic rock bands and even a few folk alternative acts that graced the C Street stage, all of them were competing for $23,000 in prizes, including cash, Sweetwater Sound gift certificates, whatzup advertising credits and the chance to be part of a compilation CD set to be released later this year. During the preliminary, semi-final and quarter-final rounds, both the crowd vote and a judge’s score determined which two bands would advance to the next week. At Thursday night’s contest, record executives from Roadrunner Records and Indianapolis’ A Joyful Noise joined Fort Wayne’s own Bob Roets of Wooden Nickel in deciding which band took top honors.
Elana Teune, manager for Roadrunner Records Midwest Region, admitted to being surprised by A New Definition.
“Usually I don’t go in for the growly vocals, what we at Roadrunner tend to call Cookie Monster vocals, but I have to tell you that those guys are outstanding. They have immense talent and really great song quality,” she said. “And they should take those two girls who danced in front on tour with them.”
Teune said picking a favorite was a difficult decision, given the great strengths of each band that performed.
“I was very impressed with the diversity of the bands,” she said. “I thought it was a great competition. Every band was really different from the others and there was a great spectrum of talent.”
This year’s Battle was likewise a spectrum of definite highs and discernible lows. Consider the fact that two bands, The Whims and Pale Gray Sky, had never played any gigs before the Battle and yet still managed to advance to the semi-final round. Then there was Teays Vein’s record-setting crowd vote tally during their semi-final performance. The four-man rock act from Berne garnered a total of 141 votes from an ear-splittingly enthusiastic crowd. That same night Krimsha played a set that Jerrdog described that night as “chill-inducing.” And who could forget Verge of Submission’s runner-up work at the finals that had their fans chanting “V.O.S.” long after they’d left the stage? It was their second Battle, and their second second-place finish in a row.
As for low points, two words: girl fight. A few more words: the girlfriends from one band got into it with the girlfriends from another band and the cops were called. But, hey man, that’s rock n’ roll. Whatyagonnado?
The same might be asked of A New Definition, who, for their semi-final performance rented a party bus to bring their fans to the Fort. What did they do the night they took top honors in a heated contest of Goliaths versus Goliaths? Did they hop a flight to Disneyworld? Call their mothers? Buy some stock?
“We drove back to Coldwater and did a few Jager bombs at our favorite local bar, McSober’s. The staff kept the place open late for us, so that was pretty cool,” said Francis.
And what’s next? There’s the CD, of course, but Francis, who works a day job as a lumber yard foreman, is expecting his first child in a few weeks with his wife, Stephanie.
“We’re going to take a break, and I’m going to settle in and do the daddy thing. Then the CD comes out and we’re going to hit it hard,” he said.