One sign of a healthy local music scene is that it doesn't take itself too seriously or bask in its own self-importance. To that end, we welcome the return of Rock Fight, a battle of the bands with a difference that is the brainchild of Rich Evans (Total Punk Records CEO). Characterized by Evans as a "battle of the bands crossed with an Orlando roast," this fifth Rock Fight, actually the fourth – admits Evans, "I've done three before and I made this one the fifth because I couldn't remember how many I did at the time and five just seemed more momentous" – comes back "bigger!" and "boulder!" than ever after a break of a couple of years.
The concept of Rock Fight is simple – and yet wondrously convoluted – one-off bands drawn from the most brazen of Orlando's underground form for the evening with an emphasis on over-the-top gimmicks over well-honed chops, play a short set, and are then judged by an "all-star" panel, with an MC peppering all involved with insults every step of the way. The initial idea behind Rock Fight was a way of demystifying playing music live, as Evans explains, "I thought it would be fun to have a battle of the bands where it doesn't matter how terrible you are. Just to encourage people to pick up instruments and try it." The name Rock Fight came from the battle of the bands scene in Up In Smoke, and then and, says Evans, "What started as a joke kept growing and snowballing into this ridiculous thing with the judges and everything."
This year's Rock Fight is perhaps the biggest one yet, with nine bands confirmed to dazzle Will's Pub with over-the-top showmanship and sloppy excellence, and then be sliced to ribbons by the judges. Evans told Orlando Weekly several times that this is the last one he's going to do, so come check out this uniquely local gong show while you still have the chance.
You have some new stipulations this year?
Yeah, this year I came up with a bunch of terrible cover songs that people have to do. Because it used to be three songs and only one could be a cover.
It changes a little every year, but this year I thought it would be funny if I was in charge of the covers that people could do. There's like a whole Eagles block. I put a few songs in there that were decent. So it would be luck of the draw. But with the exception of one, I think everybody got terrible songs.
Any particularly good band names this year?
I think Richard Spencer's Blues Explosion in the best one.
Who in on the judging panel?
It's Erik (Grincewicz, Golden Pelicans vocalist), these guys Sam and Tim from the Curleys from Gainesville – I'm putting out a record for them – and they're one judge, so they each get half an opinion, and then Kristin Howard (Kickbright). And Nadeem Khan is going to be the MC.
Favorite memories from past Rock Fights?
The first Rock Fight, I gave all the judges scorecards and all the judges lit their scorecards on fire, so Backbooth was pretty unhappy ... and by the end of the night all of their rocks glasses were broken because people kept throwing them.
What was the weirdest band gimmick so far?
Last year there was this band that were all dressed like wizards and I don't even think they had songs, they just all played bass scales. For like eight minutes.
Are you surprised that musicians are willing to submit themselves to possible humiliation??
You have to have a pretty good sense of humor, but it's been fun every time. I don't think I'll ever do this again, this will probably be the last one. But each time I've enjoyed it.
Any parting words of advice for the performers or audience?
For the bands, I would grease the judges' palms. For spectators? Be ready to get some beer poured on you. firstname.lastname@example.org