Last weekend, local soul/pop/rock band Winslow took the next step in its dream to rock out in Rome when it won the Hard Rock Rising Cleveland battle of the bands. Winslow competed against 140 area bands that entered the contest and beat out three bands in the final.
The group — singer Maurice, guitarist Charlie Trenta, bassist Danny Kolliner, saxman Matthew Tieman and drummer Jesse Marquardt — made it to the finals with a combination of strong performances and a dedicated and hopefully growing fan base that voted, liked, poked and prodded online to help Winslow win.
The guys played it cool onstage when the band’s name was announced as the winner (“Hey, we’re Winslow; of course, we won.”), but Maurice (no need for a surname) said, although they appeared even-keeled, it was a big moment.
“Hearing them say ‘Winslow’ was an incredible moment of joy and relief. We all understand what an amazing opportunity this is,” Maurice said. “You just never know what the judges are really looking for. We’ve had some incredible highs and some humbling moments, too, as a band. We’ve really learned to never take any of this for granted.”
Winslow’s sound — a mix of soulful vocals, funky R&B grooves and some rock riffs all tied together with a pretty pink pop-sound bow — can be heard on its latest album, Left of the Right Direction. The album was produced by Edwin “Tony” Nicholas, who has worked with Mary J. Blige, Gerald Levert and others, and released on Cleveland’s Little Fish Records.
It has the potential to be the kind of band that young and older listeners can appreciate together and a cross-generational fan base is a definite career boon. Ask the Black Keys, it’s worked pretty well for the Akron band, or L.A.’s up-and-coming, buzz-heavy, retro-soul-rock band Vintage Trouble, which recently signed with Blue Note Records.
Now that Winslow has topped the local heap, it will move on to the global round, where it will compete against 80 bands from more than 48 countries including Russia, India and Malaysia. The top 25 vote getters will then have their music assessed by a panel of industry professionals/judges.
The voting runs from April 28 through May 7 and the band won’t have another chance to perform live to garner more votes, so it’s up to fans (and Northeast Ohio homers) to get on Facebook — the voting links aren’t up yet, but you can like Winslow or the Hard Rock Cleveland to stay updated — and vote for the local boys.
The eventual winner will get to perform at the Hard Rock Live Music Festival Italy at the Piazza del Popolo in front of 40,000 music fans and take home some cash and brand new gear.
“Playing in front of 40,000 people in Rome would be a dream come true for us; one of those moments that you look back on and say ‘Wow, we did that,’ ” Maurice said.
If Winslow manages to win the whole shebang, it won’t be the band’s first win. Last year, it received seven nominations and took home three statues from the Ohio Local Music Awards, including best headlining band, best bassist for Kolliner and best drummer for Marquardt.
The band has also begun spreading its musical wings and getting out of Ohio by signing a television licensing deal that should have its music popping up on several cable channels including MTV, E!, Discovery and NASCAR.
It will be the second band from this area to do so as pop rock trio Hey Monea! won the competition in 2012, sending it to the London Hard Rock Music Festival where the band opened for Bruce Springsteen.
“We’ve known Hey Monea! since our 1959 [Winslow’s previous name] days,” Maurice said. “… It gives us hope. We know that we represent all of Ohio in this and we’ve seen Ohio prevail.”
Winslow is recording a new EP and one of the songs, Shine, featuring Akron hip-hop outfit Red Rose Panic, will be made available as a free download for folks who vote for the band.
Besides finishing up the EP, Maurice said the band is focused on the competition, which will require quite a bit of self-promotion, for which Maurice has a knack, and that elusive ingredient luck, which the singer said the band works hard to create.
For Winslow, going to the global round is one more step in the right direction.
“Every time experiences like this happen, it reaffirms that this is where we are meant to be, making music and sharing our love with the world,” Maurice said.
“It has been a wild ride so far, but we are far from being done. If we get the support of everyone, this could honestly change our lives. We are open to [any] help and advice people can give,” he said.
Good luck, guys.
For as long as I’ve been here, music-loving dreamers have talked about opening a jazz club in Akron.
Yeah, there are several clubs and bars around town that welcome jazz artists, but I have yet to see an area club with a focus on jazz survive.
Hopefully, this new club dubbed BLU (jazz +), which is shooting for a late June grand opening, will be the exception. Local businessman Tony Troppe, who brought Musica and Uncorked Wine Bar to downtown Akron, has big plans for the club that will be located beneath Crave.
Troppe recently took me on a brief tour of the space, and though there isn’t much to look at right now, it seems as though it will be a pretty snazzy home for jazz and blues, R&B and funk. It has a big bar, a corner stage for maximum viewing and food that will be delivered from the upstairs kitchen via an old-school dumbwaiter (Google it, kids).
And of course, BLU’s existence will give the considerable amount of talented jazz artists, young and old, in this area another friendly environment in which to perform. To keep updated on BLU or to submit a press kit for a potential gig this summer, go to www.blujazzakron.com.