Kill the Rabbit are so beloved by their fans that they have their own chad. Remember those dangling things that caused such a stir during the 2004 Presidential election? In the case of this year’s Battle of the Bands final round ballots, however, there was no mistaking a vote for Kill the Rabbit. The circle next to their name wasn’t just colored in: it had bunny ears. And there were 123 of them. The support of fans helped propel the Van Wert, Ohio-based fivesome to the top of the heap, and what a heap it was. After three months’ worth of preliminary rounds, the final bout of Battle of the Bands VII – which took place Thursday, August 26 at Columbia Street West – was a veritable mountain of rock n’ roll.
The first act to take the stage was Blood From a Stone, a hard-rocking, working-class hero quartet who placed fourth. They were followed by Exterminate All Rational Thought, a four-piece, all-original, all-instrumental act whose playing ability far outstrips their collective age. (Seriously, what’s with kids today being so damned good?) EART placed third in the night’s contest, but you’d never know it from their ecstatic reaction when Battle of the Bands emcee Jerrdog (of 98.9 The Bear) called their name. Their smiles were almost as bright as bassist Jamie DeVinney’s blue hair.
Third to play was Krimsha, another quintet who, despite the fact that lead singer Bryan Barnhart was plagued first with an infected tooth (right before the first round) and next with the flu (right before the finals), had the crowd chanting their name after almost every song of their 30-minute set. Krimsha, who placed third in last year’s battle, took second prize this year, impressing the event’s seven judges with their superior musicianship and genuine devotion to their craft.
Kill the Rabbit – Scotty Hayes on vocals, Marc Baker on bass, Sheridan Lippi on drums and Tony Gardner and Mike “Patch” Adams on guitar – brought the battle to a close with a seven-song original set of power ballads and rock anthems that whipped their fans into a fine frenzy. It all began with Hayes (decked out in skin-tight jeans, a black vest, leather motorcycle gloves and a fedora) grabbing his now trademark bullhorn and belting out the title track to KTR’s upcoming CD, Pieces. The bullhorn is something Hayes had been carrying around in his car for years, and when Digitracks owner Dan Middleton suggested Hayes use the horn in the recording of “Pieces,” Hayes and the other guys from KTR were impressed with the effect.
So were the crowds at Columbia Street who sang along and waved pitchers of beer while Hayes climbed on top of an amp, ripped his vest off and sang into a horn which reads “M.I.L.F.” on one side and “Patrol” on the other.
“We’re all getting older,” Hayes said in a phone conversation the day after the battle. “MILFs are more our speed now.”
KTR followed “Pieces” with “Nervous Breakdown,” “As I Am,” “Your Song,” “Need You Now,” “Mr. Condescending” and “Flee.”
Listening to Kill the Rabbit is a little like being transported to a simpler, dare I say better, time when Bret Michaels was still just a rock star and no one had ever heard of Justin Bieber. That makes sense when you consider the fact that they first came together in 1993. Back then they were primarily a cover band, and they broke up after about four years to pursue other projects. In 2005 they played a reunion show, but it didn’t really stick until 2008 when they decided to enter Battle of the Bands for the first time. They made it to round two, and according to Hayes their only goal for this year was to make it to round three.
“We had no idea we’d get to the finals, let alone win. We’re just blown away by the fan support and the love. It’s awesome,” he said.
Awesome is as awesome plays, and these guys can play. The KTR lineup was solidified this year with the addition of Gardner and Adams, who came in to fill the void left by previous guitarist Bob Finger (his real name). Finger left the band because of a job promotion, but not before he helped pen several of the songs for KTR’s debut album, which is scheduled to drop October 1.
Hayes said the band is going to take a one-month hiatus from gigging to put the finishing touches on Pieces, and then, who knows? For now, the Decatur resident said he’s living in the moment.
“I put on all my Kill the Rabbit gear this morning and took a long motorcycle ride. I ran into a lot of friends who were really excited for us. I’ve been getting texts all day, people saying congratulations. We’re happy as hell.”
That’s pretty much Kill the Rabbit’s M.O. Hayes said that whether they’re practicing in one of the guys’ garages, playing a show or just hanging out at a bar until closing time, he and his bandmates are always joking, laughing and having a good time.
“I’ve been playing in bands for years and years, and I think I have more fun with these guys at practices than I ever had with my other bands at gigs,” he said. “We love making music. That’s what it’s all about. We love being silly and goofy and retarded. It’s like it was back when we were young.”