Friday and Saturday Kings Barcade will host a battle of the bands, a melodic melee that will pit Durham acts against their rivals nine miles to the west, a handful of groups from Chapel Hill. In an area known for its fierce hoops rivalries, the competitive nature of area bands is a subject that has rarely been broached, but Kings co-owner Steve Popson felt that it deserved some attention.
"One of the things we had wanted to do was have a local music showcase," he says. "We had one in May and one in June and they were both successful. So we thought maybe we should come up with themes for them. There's always been, maybe not necessarily a rivalry, but a designation, a sort of 'who's from where' distinction. My being in a band that was known as being from Chapel Hill (Polvo), I used to catch it because I lived in Raleigh and never once hung out in Chapel Hill." Popson has lined up four bands from each town to represent their turf, and the competition should be fierce.
Night number one will feature Chapel Hill acts Cold Sides and Razzle versus Durham bands The Sames and Des Ark. Saturday, the Gold Chainz and The Man will hold it down for the Hill against the Bull City's Jett Rink and Roxotica. But before you go choosing sides, it should be noted that almost every act contains members from both towns. In a music scene as incestuous as the Triangle's, designations are hard to make. "I don't know who we're fighting," says Razzle drummer David Bjorkback. "I barely know who I'm representing. Our rhythm section is from Durham and the guitars live in Chapel Hill but we practice at Go! Rehearsal Studios so I guess that's what tipped the scales."
Razzle and Roxotica may indeed have a distinct advantage over the other bands, having already squared off against one another at Durham's Ringside. "That was the 'Boobs Vs. Tubes' show," says Bjorkback. "It was an absolute blast and one of our best shows. It was cool because we set up side by side and literally traded song for song, kind of like boxers going blow for blow. In between we did a lot of trash talking as well." And as for the mysterious Roxotica, spokesperson Ameila Burch says, "They battled well with Razzle and emerged unscathed." Utilizing covers of '80s metal queens Rock Goddess along with originals such as "Black Metal Baby" and "Hell Hath No Fury," the power trio manages to keep their identities hidden, much like pro wrestlers donning a mask for privacy's sake. "Sometimes their hair is blonde, sometimes it's black and fishnets are always involved," says Burch.
But much like their athletic counterparts, there are hazards inherent in the rock business. "We're actually at a slight disadvantage due to the fact that I have a broken left hand," says Bjorkback, whose injury occurred as a result of a break dancing incident. "But I'm still playing the show one-handed. After I found out it was broken, we were supposed to play somewhere and I was thinking about canceling it. Then I thought of my man Rick Allen from Def Leppard. He plays without a left arm so I said to myself, 'I think I can do this.'"
But the competition won't be limited to the stage area. In a club known for its monthly Southern Championship Wrestling night, it's only fitting the representatives for the bands get it on in other arenas. "There are going to be some extracurricular activities that will pit each city's residents against one another," says Popson, but he hesitates to be specific. Rumors abound of inflatable sumo suits and chicken fights. Bjorkback feels confident about Razzle's chances in the proposed sumo matches. "A couple of the guys in our band are pretty big, so I don't know if they would even need the suits," he says, risking a beating from his bandmates. "When we say Razzle is 'the heaviest band around,' we ain't just talking about the riffs."
Popson hopes this sort of thing becomes an ongoing series that encourages bands to raise their performances levels. "This is hopefully the first of many to come," he says. "There were a ton of bands that we simply couldn't fit in to this one, so ideally they'll be involved in future showdowns." Does he think the fact that most of these musicians are friends will deter them from letting the competition get heated? Citing rock history, Popson says, 'It goes back to acts like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis; there's always a level of one-upsmanship and, showmanship involved. Jimi Hendrix and The Who fighting about who's going on stage first. It's cool that these guys are playing together locally, but we want them to push each other, y'know?"