Maybe the best way to describe them to those
poor suckers who missed the whatzup Battle
of the Bands last Thursday is punk rock with a
slide guitar. They were dirty, sang songs about
pickup trucks and fried chicken. They had the
biggest bass drum I've ever seen, and they were
completely hip to the use of the slide guitar and
its place in rock music. If you still don't know
who I'm talking about, it is Left Lane Cruiser,
first runners-up in Fort Waynes whatzup
2005 Battle of the Bands II.
Left Lane Cruiser formed in the summer of 2004
when guitarist, Joe Evans fiance mentioned that
he should get together and jam with drummer Bren
Beck. The second time they got together resulted
in a four-song demo. Soon they picked up bass
player Jessie Garet, and then dropped him, in
favor of a more raw sound. This is the point in
which LLC's sound began to take shape.
"Don't get us wrong," said Beck. "Jessie is one
of our best friends and an absolutely awesome
bass player. He just wasn't fitting what we
wanted to do. It was really hard to let him
"We're both kind of wusses I guess," added
Evans. "We took him out to dinner, and Bren and I
both just looked at our food and played with it
for like 20 minutes before we said anything. He
finally just asked us flat out if we had
something to say, we just kind of spoke under our
breath and said, 'We're thinking about letting
you go.' It was the hardest thing I've ever
This sort of quiet reserve and honesty is
something that doesn't usually happen in the
realm of Fort Wayne local music. Face it, most of
the bands in this town (I should know, I'm in a
few of them) have a bit of arrogance to them that
is completely ludicrous. So this modesty and
desire to stick to their influences is very
LLC put on a fairly powerful show for a couple
of guys sitting down on stage. Evans sits down in
front of his Marshall half stack, with his steel
guitar, slide on his pointer finger, tapping his
feet to the rhythm, constantly on the verge of
standing. Beck sits behind a 30-inch bass drum
(most bass drums are 22 inches) and distorted
microphone, harmonica on his lap.
"I've been playing twelve-bar blues forever,"
commented Beck. "I just got really sick of it.
Then Joe introduced me to Fat Possum Records, and
I just couldn't believe it. It had the soul of
blues music, but a touch of punk."
"They call it north Mississippi hill country
blues," added Evans. "That label just does
things differently. They just go out into the
small towns down south and find farmers that play
guitar in local bars on the weekends and beg them
to let them put out records of them. The label
makes almost no money on the bands, and the
farmers get to have their music documented, and
still get to ride their tractors."
Before they made it into the finals, they didn't
really care about winning the Battle of the
Bands. They didn't really care about the studio
time, or the cash; they just wanted the write-up.
So they advanced and ended up with second place.
So what are they planning to do with the cash and
the studio time?
"First off, I'm going to get all of my
instruments out of hawk," commented Evans.
"We never have any back-up guitars or equipment
because Joe always has his stuff in the pawn
shops," added Beck. "He just pawned a couple of
guitars to pay for our last record. It sucks
"We'll probably use the studio time to do a
better job on our records. We usually do them in
about an hour and a half, then take the tracks
home and mix them ourselves. I did the last
Left Lane Cruiser actually got into the real
spirit of Battle of the Bands.
"We have had a really great time doing this. It
got us a chance to get out and play shows with
bands [who] would never ever have played shows
with us," said Evans.
"It was great for exposure," added Beck. "A ton
of people saw us that would never have seen us
otherwise. At the semifinals we sold 67 CDs and
gave away a hundred bumper stickers. We set up
shows with some of the bands that we played with
in Battle of the Bands that otherwise would never
have happened. It's been a great thing for Fort
"Yeah," continued Evans. "We've made a lot of
new friends: Second Sun, Project 9, the
Mooncrikets and Between the Rooms. It's been a
really awesome experience."
Left Lane Cruiser actually were part of a
controversy in the final round. Judges miscounted
the August 16 semifinal round audience vote and
announced the two advancing bands as the
Mooncrikets and Twelve and Two. A recount the
following morning revealed that Left Lane Cruiser
had actually come in second, so whatzup
invited Beck and Evans to play in a five-band
"Naturally, we were all for it," commented Beck.
"There was a bit of a fuss about it on
fortwaynemusic (the online message board). Some
of Definitely Garys fans got kind of mad about
us advancing, but we actually did win, they
"Yeah," added Evans. "We would really like to
thank Matt Jericho for getting on there and
explaining what actually happened. It was a big
help. It would have been great to have Definitely
Gary advance so that we could keep playing shows
with them, but there is no way to do something
like this without somebody getting mad."
So the two good ol' boys in LLC, advanced and
surprised a lot of people by coming out in full
force and stepping it up a couple of notches.
"We just did what we do," commented Beck. "The
real thanks goes out to all of our friends and
fans that came out to the show and supported us.
There is no way we could have come this far
without them. I'd also like to give a shout out
to our number-one super fan Jen Nickell."
"If anyone would really like to help us out,"
added Evans, "they could drop a couple of lines
into the e-mail box of Fat Possum Records. Our
whole goal is to get them to sign us to their
label. The more people that tell them about us
before we send them out a CD, the better it'll be
for us. The support everyone has given has been
great, and that extra bit would be absolutely
However, it wasn't all smiles and hugs when the rankings were announced.
"I'm really disappointed that Moser Woods came
in last," commented Evans. "I got a really sick
feeling in my stomach when they announced it.
They played probably one of the best sets of the
"My guess is that people voted them last because
they considered them to be that much of a threat
to the other bands," added Beck. "If that's true,
then it's kind of an honor that people are that
intimidated by them. Like we said earlier, there
is no way that you can do one of these type of
things without making somebody mad."
Left Lane Cruiser walked away with $1000 cash,
$100 in whatzup advertising, memberships
in the Jam Crib along with $150 in gift
certificates and eight hours of recording time at