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The Real Battle of the Bands

Paesanos' battle-of-the-bands bounty and other tales from a disastrous competition

Some time back Racket wrote about the trouble nightclubs have filling Tuesday-night slots and the way one club, Paesanos, took care of the problem. Paesanos had what seemed to be a win-win-win plan for themselves, local and regional bands and midweek clubbers: a battle of the bands competition with four bands contending every Tuesday for a crack at what was purported to be a $4,000 cash prize.

The reasoning went like this: The bands would bring in all their fans, in part to help them with the "audience participation" component of the judging, and also to swell Paesanos' coffers. The bands would get exposure, and industry mooks like Racket would have a chance to see a bunch of new bands in one fell swoop on a night that would otherwise be dead.

But in the end, Paesanos' management of the event and tabulation of the prize money turned out to be as puzzling as Louisiana Street accountancy.

Rocker Liviya Compean classifies her experience with the battle of the bands as both "shitty" and "ridiculous." Compean was told by club owner James Cole to play a 90-minute set. When she stepped off the stage, one of the members of hard rock band Prison Love Scene was furious. Compean says he went nose to nose with her and jabbed her in the chest with his finger, screaming that she had played too long. When one of Compean's fans rallied to her defense, the Prison Love Scenester told the woman to "shut the fuck up" and told management to "get this fucking dyke out of my face."

Which they did. "Instead of taking that guy out, they took her out," Compean complains bitterly. "This girl had paid money and drank in that bar and brought about 20 people with her." Compounding matters was the management's subsequent callousness. "They belittled what I had to say, but I was like, 'I was there. I saw what happened,' " she says. "But then they almost went as far as to say that the slurs were okay because my friend did look like a guy."

Furthermore, Compean says, the club's sound sucked: "That's a great room, but unfortunately there's nothing but low-end. Everything sounds distorted. I've got a taping of us there, and it's all low-end."

If the room isn't the problem, it's generally the guy running the board. Racket didn't administer a field sobriety test, but three of the acts that played there -- Compean, Pavlov's Dogs and Michael -- all claimed that the sound guy was shit-faced.

Michael Flores is the front man for Michael, the band that eventually won the contest. He considers his victory a little tainted, since Paesanos' sozzled sound man gave them a bit of a leg up on their competition in the finals. "The night we played [against] Pavlov's Dogs, the sound guy was drunk off his ass," Flores recalls. "He was hammered, completely hammered. Finally their lead singer got sick of it. He had two more songs left to play, but he just quit. He did this real big sarcastic bow and left the stage. It was hilarious. He shot himself in the foot with the judges, but I could understand his frustration."

Pavlov's front man Ryan Holley picks up the story. "We're a five-piece -- we've got a sax player, two vocalists, two guitars, bass and drums," he says from his home in Austin. "The guy's like, 'I have five channels. I have five microphones.' And then he was so fucked up that he put three mikes on the drums, and that was it. So we were left with one vocal mike and a sax mike. It was really pathetic."

Pavlov's set was an unmitigated disaster. "I have a 15-passenger van, and we brought up about ten people with us, and they all said it sounded terrible," he says. "We had really bad feedback problems. I got so pissed off about all the feedback that I turned the monitors around backwards in the middle of my set."

The problems with Paesanos continued even after the competition was over. "I had heard that the original booty was three or four grand," says Flores. "Then it got bumped to two grand. The night we won we were given one grand, and we were told that Jägermeister was gonna send a $1,000 check to the club for us in about a week or so. A week turned into a few months, and we started wondering what was going on. Turns out that James is having to foot the bill himself. Supposedly he's gonna give us the grand in $200 increments. They were boasting about all these sponsors and stuff, but all we got from Jägermeister was a couple of snowboards. I'd rather have the extra $1,000 as promised."

Yes, in Texas especially, one would rather have a stack of C-notes than a couple of snowboards. But Jägermeister spokesman Tom Bruno says that while the company does sponsor bands -- local rap-rockers Faceplant, for example -- it has never sponsored a battle of the bands. "If we sponsor a battle of the bands at one club, then every club in Texas would want us to do the same for them," Bruno explains.

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