Final round: Battle of the Bands at Whiskey Warehouse Bar & Grill review!!

Local music is the backbone to any music genre whether it be, rock-n-roll, country or hip-hop. No matter your musical likings if you look around your area you’ll find a local band performing somewhere every weekend.

For the majority of big name bands, local shows are where they got their start. In fact if you delve into the bands that are members of the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame, you’ll find a list of who’s who that had a slow rise to stardom.

Black Sabbath for example was formed by Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward because they were tired of factory life. But despite the talent that we have grown to love over the years, they weren’t a band that grabbed fame right away. It took two years and a name change before things began to blow up for the British rockers.

Lynyrd Skynyrd began after Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins quit school in 1965 due to harassment from their gym teacher, Leonard Skinner (if you guessed they got their name from him give yourself a point) over growing long hair. The trio then moved in to a cabin together in Green Cove Springs, Florida to write music. 

They gained a following playing the local bar scene and eventually got their first big break six years later in 1971, when they signed their first record deal. And as the old adage goes ‘the rest is history’!

Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic hooked up in 1987 to become Nirvana. The duo toiled around the Seattle circuit with various drummers, finally inking a deal with an independent label, Sub Pop, in 1989.

Their first album ‘Bleach’ sold just over 40,000 copies but got the band noticed. However they were still going through drummers like water through a sieve until Dave Grohl entrenched himself in the throne behind the kit in 1990. A few months later the trio signed on with DGC Records and in 1991 became a household name after unleashing ‘Nevermind’.

My point is that if a band is looking to make it to the big time it doesn’t matter where you start as long as you have the drive and willingness to put in the work, anything is possible.

Last Saturday night at the Whiskey Warehouse Bar & Grill in Mansfield, Ohio there were five bands that proved to have that certain edge it takes to go the extra mile to achieve their collective dreams.

All five bands were vying for a spot on the main stage at this year’s Ink in the Clink which will be held July 14-16 at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. The winners would garner spots playing before national acts such as Three Days Grace, In This Moment and Theory of a Deadman.

 The quintet of acts earned the right to be performing on Saturday after going through six rounds of preliminaries in which they competed against 22 other outstanding locals from throughout the upper Midwest including bands from New York, Maryland and Indiana.

Those who took the stage at the Whiskey included Ignite the Fire (Taneytown, Maryland), Line of Defense (Jackson Township), Dread Engine (Columbus), The World I Knew (Cincinnati) and appropriately named, The Battle (Cleveland).

Ignite the Fire performing during Ink in the Clink, Battle of the Bands finals. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Ignite the Fire drew the opening card and had the fans going right from the start with tunes “Criticize” and “Remember Me”. Michael Nelson, one of the band’s guitarists got interactive with the crowd when he went for a stroll through the masses as well as joining in on a little jumping during the playing of “Voyeur”. The five piece ensemble, featuring Jack Gurecki as the man in the middle, closed things with “Breathe” which was slow and hard sounding rippled with power from the rhythm section of Holly Smith (bass) and Caelan Gregory.  That was followed up by a tremendous rendition of Breaking Benjamin’s “Blow Me Away” and their original “Over It”. The final tune featured strong guitar work from both Nelson and Mark Quin and a harmonic bliss from a vocal standpoint. Ignite the Fire laid down a musical gauntlet that was going to be tough to follow.

Line of Defense performing during Ink in the Clink, Battle of the Bands finals. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Jackson Township’s Line of Defense proved to be up to the task opening with “Bulls on Parade” a cover of the great Rage Against the Machine hit. “Cloud Nine” belted an 80’s metal sound full of riffs and licks from guitarists, Zakk Stayer and Alex Braholli. The duo continued their mastery during the playing of “Place to Call Home”. LOD continued to rip through their set culminating with a heavy grunge influenced sound of “Follow Me” bolstered from the rhythm section of David Bruno (bass) and Mitch Stayer (drums).    

Dread Engine did indeed follow them with their usual energized performance behind the pulsating duo of Sam Stockdale and Rick Kaercher. Every time that I have had the opportunity to see DE the tandem bounces around the stage like a pinball, and this night they seemed to be just a little more stoked than usual. That coupled with the fact that they can sing and growl, makes them a joy to watch.

Dread Engine performing during Ink in the Clink, Battle of the Bands finals. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Jonathon Collins was superb on the axe while Jake Spears and Tommy Sartin were dead nuts on with their six strings.

DE brought a big following up I-71 and the fans were jacked as they unloaded music from their latest CD ‘Deception By Design”. The Columbus based group had a Kumbaya moment when they had an audience sing along as they unloaded “Coward”, a single from their self-titled EP. Jay Coughlin’s potent drum lead in sent the crowd into a frenzy leaving them chanting for more when they were finished.

Standing at the rail the whole set showing their support was the entire cast of the next band scheduled to grace the stage, The World I Knew. The boys from the 513 were full throttle behind their buddies as they revved themselves up for their upcoming set.

Wesley Merritt, lead vocalist, is just as high-voltage as Stockdale and Kaercher. He proved that by not only covering every inch of the stage but also roaming the patio area serenading those who were not inside.

The World I Knew performing during Ink in the Clink, Battle of the Bands finals. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

TWIK has the unique sound in which they blend heavy metal, rap and hip-hop all up into a nice little bundle that will melt your face off. Jared Saleski (bass) and Max Guerrero (bass) brought the thunder while Wesley Davis and Alex Guerrero delivered incredible sound on guitar.

Together The World I Knew brought their ‘A’ game as they unloaded their uniqueness that had the crowd eating out of their hands especially during their original piece “F@#K A 9 to-5”.

Having the unenviable task of closing the show was the four piece marvel known simply as The Battle. Just as the band they preceded, The Battle had an unequaled sound all their own. That was due to the fact that they were completely instrumental. One might have thought that would be a detriment in a clash of rockers who were going after a premier spot on the IITC lineup. I’m here to tell you that would turn out to be far from the case.

The Battle performing during Ink in the Clink, Battle of the Bands finals. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

With a Led Zeppelin influence, The Battle opened with a slow moody number and continued to amaze with their flare for delivering an edgy sound that ranged from the grunge to the heavy.

Ron Copenhaver and Chris Shaheen were mesmerizing with their guitar playing while Donne Copenhaver (drums) and Tom Nemo (bass) filled your ear holes with raw explosiveness. 

Following the final set of the night the work was handed over to the judges who did not have an easy call to come up with the top three spots because all five bands were unbelievable.

After all the tallying and discussions the balloting was close with eight-tenths of a point separating the five. Earning the top three spots in no certain order were Dread Engine, Line of Defense and The Battle.

However, and rightfully so, The World I Knew and Ignite the Fire were also awarded set time on the main stage when all was said and done.

As a fan, I would have been hard-pressed to come up with a top three. But then again that’s what local shows will give you. Of the five bands that played I had only seen two (DE & TWIK) play before but you can rest assured that if any of the finalist’s names are on a bill near me, you will definitely see me in the crowd.

Susan Fields, Justin Smith and Rick Fields making announcement of the winners of Battle of the Bands.

Each and every band proved to me that they have what it takes to be that Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd or Nirvana; they were all that good. And I can’t wait to see each and every one of them take their spot right next to the big boys come time for Ink in the Clink.

If you haven’t got your ticket for Ink in the Clink, what are you waiting for? Get online and get yours order so you can see what these five bands have to make me feel the way I do. At the very least get out and take in a show. Give your support to those local bands; you never know, you may be watching a future Hall-of-Famer!

In closing I want to thank The Rust Belt Chronicles’ Jennifer Dix, for gathering all the info during the show. Make sure to check out all of our team at TRBC, whether it’s our articles, photos, ‘Rock Lines’, ‘Rock Moment’ or ‘Where Are We Going’ live videos . We are here to keep you informed on all forms of entertainment throughout the Rust Belt!

Until next time, this is Big L saying ‘keep those horns up and rock on’!! \m/ \m/

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Larry Ritter About Larry Ritter

Hello my name is Larry Ritter, or “Big L” to most of my friends. I’m a production supervisor for a major manufacturer of auto parts here in northwest Ohio. I received an Associate’s degree from Owen’s Community College where I graduated cum laude honors. I have a true passion for music, sports, photography and riding motorcycles. My love for these things are surpassed by just one thing, family, which includes two sons, a daughter and eight grandchildren.

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