By the time the reborn and reignited Scissorfight takes the Once Ballroom stage as the special guest band at Friday’s Rock And Roll Rumble finale, Boston’s best local music festival will have hosted 24 bands, 35 performances, and an incalculable amount of tacos consumed (both on stage and off) over a 20-night period.
As the judges deliberate up in the Once green room, ignoring the inevitable sound bleed from Scissorfight down in the ballroom and determining which 2016 participant will receive the crown from last year’s champs Zip-Tie Handcuffs, one thing will be for sure: This was one of the most fun Rumbles ever. After nearly four decades of spirited rock and roll competition, this year’s edition felt like a rebirth, as the new Somerville location, both Once’s lived-in balcony lounge and the wide-open main ballroom, gave a certain freshness to the prelims and semis, and a new crop of young bands and scene veterans injected another dose of friendly rivalry and unmitigated support among fellow musicians. It felt like this was a year truly based around new music discovery.
But, this is a competition, and a winner on Friday will be declared. Amazingly, the final three — likely favorite and metal juggernaut Worshipper, dark-horse indie rock sparkplug Weakened Friends, and electronic pop survivalists usLights — all offer a distinct sound with little crossover. It’s a nice reflection of the eclectic Boston scene, and going into the finals, it’s truly any band’s to win. It’ll all come down to their individual performances.
Instead of predictions, here’s a closer look at the 2016 Rock And Roll Rumble’s final three, and how they got here:
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9 p.m.: usLights (wild card band)
We need to stop being surprised. usLights are in the finals after defeating a handful of bands a few picked to win the whole thing (The Devil’s Twins and The Knock Ups in the prelims, and as a wild card over Abbie Barrett and Salem Wolves in the semis), and did so as a sort of black sheep. The electronic-tinged dream-pop trio have shaken up this rock and roll throwdown with two 30-minute sets that build and glide with ease, propelled by the precision drumming of Shawn Pelkey and the yearning vocals of guitarist Gregg Kusumah-Atmadja. Rounded out by multi-instumentalist Matt Nastri, the trio creates a cinematic sound drenched in faded hues, the type of band you watch and listen to with your eyes closed. In the preliminary round, we asked them if they thought an electronic pop band had a place in the Rumble — they answered that, resoundingly, through their electric live show.