As March Madness subsides and turns into April excitement, much like on the basketball court, four final competitors sit poised to claim a title.
But it’s not the NCAA championship that will be decided this weekend, it’s this year’s Grand Strand’s Best Band contest that will see a winner crowned Sunday night at the House of Blues.
“We’re really excited to play,” said Brandon Distel, vocalist for local metal group Conception of Being. “We’re just honored to actually get this far.”
Joining Conception of Being on stage at the HOB music hall will be fellow finalists Broken Strings, Peace Treaty and Bamboo Forest.
This is the third year for the contest, which was created by ListenUp Myrtle Beach as a way to get fans actively involved with supporting local music.
Past winners include The Mullets in 2011 and Little River-based group The RenoVation Band in 2012.
Each group reached the live finals after an eight-week competition that asked fans to nominate their favorite acts. More than 4,000 nominations were collected for this year’s contest.
Voting was conducted online at listenupmb.com throughout the month of March with fans voting for their favorites in a “March Madness” style bracket. Nearly 25,000 votes were cast in head-to-head competition.
Starting with a field of 32 groups — 16 original and 16 cover bands — each finalist had to beat out three other groups in order to reach the Final Four.
Cover band finalist Broken Strings, a group consisting of former students from Dino Capone’s School of Rock, led all groups in nominations.
The rock/pop band moved through the competition with convincing victories over Colossal, Wahoo Creek Band and Peace Treaty on the way to the finals.
Despite a defeat in the final round of voting, North Myrtle Beach-based rock band Peace Treaty also advanced to the finals as an alternate after local duo Band on the Rum was not able to participate due to schedule conflicts.
Representing the many talented groups who perform original music around the area are two up-and-coming groups, Conception of Being and Bamboo Forest.
Conception of Being, a death metal band with members from Carolina Forest and Georgetown County, began the contest as one of the top vote-getters, earning a No. 2 seed.
This young, five-piece group won a trio of hotly-contested matchups, taking down Wicked Gift, Mark Roberts Band and PaperWork to advance to the finals.
Bamboo Forest, a punk rock group from North Myrtle Beach, was the surprise of this year’s contest, coming from a No. 12 seed to deafeat The IZM, QP-N-Shamroc and One Bad Apple on the way to the finals.
Sneaking into a No. 12 seed, the band’s members were surprised to have been nominated and included in the contest, however once the voting began fan support was strong.
“We can't thank every single one of you enough for voting us into the finals for this competition,” the group wrote to its fans. “From all the support from our fans, friends, family, and fellow bands over this past year and a half especially has been incredible.”
All four groups will perform a set of 45-minutes of original and/or cover songs Sunday and be critiqued by a panel of judges on originality, musicianship, vocal talent, stage prescene and fan reaction.
The doors will open at 6 p.m. and admission to the show is free. Music will begin at 6:30 p.m. with Conception of Being followed by Broken Strings, Peace Treaty and Bamboo Forest respectively.
All four finalists will recieve prizes for their participation and honors will be given to the cover band and top original band.
In addition, a grand prize will be awarded to the top overall band — this year’s “Grand Strand’s Best Band” — including $300 cash, $200 in gift certificates for musical equipment, a promo photo shoot, a feature article in ListenUp and a chance to open a future show at the House of Blues.
All prizes were made possible by the sponsors for this year’s contest: House of Blues, The Trophy Place, Rancier Studios, Sound Systems Inc., 93.9 The Outlaw and Waccamaw Publishers.