ENCINITAS — Seven top youth bands faced off on May 18 for a spot in the Summer Fun on the 101 music festival. The event took place in the parking lot of the Leucadia Post Office and Seaweed & Gravel.
Judges selected one winning band based on sound, performance and how well the members gelled. The audience chose the second winner by ballot.
Cordelia Degher, Polarized, Step Forward Lads, Don’t Tell Mom, Sacred Cow, Triceratropical and Unsung Legacy performed for the two festival spots.
Don’t Tell Mom won the judge’s choice award.
Scott Clayton, a band judge and owner of On Point Promotions, said it was the two-member band’s diversity and ability to seamlessly switch up multiple instruments on stage that won them the top spot.
“(They) showed a ton of great musicianship,” Clayton said. “It’s not very often that you get kids so young that sing perfectly in key. This was an excellent act!”
The duo attends Ada Harris Elementary. Their set included covers of One Republic, Imagine Dragons and The Black Keys.
“Landon’s flawless vocal approach while playing guitar keys and cajon wowed all in attendance, while Mitchell offered on-point rhythm playing keys and drums,” said Michael Schmitt, band judge and Leucadia101 promotions chairman.
The audience’s choice award went to Triceratropical.
The high-energy, four-member rock band represents four different high schools.
Clayton said the band was good, but the win came as a bit of a surprise to the judges.
“The numbers were almost double everyone else’s and none of the judges thought they were a top act in comparison to the rest,” Clayton said. “Either they brought a huge following, which is awesome, or some people marked several ballots, which is against the rules. Either way they were good, but a few were definitely tighter.”
Each band played a 20-minute session to show off their best mix of originals and cover songs.
Polarized played early in the lineup. The band has two guitarists/lead singers, with low voices, along with a third guitarist and a drummer.
The band describes their sound as a mix of alternative rock with electric guitar, and indie rock with acoustic guitar and finger picking.
“(The) four-piece indie rock band (was) tight and well-rehearsed,” Clayton said. “I loved the professionalism of these guys showing up early and taking instruction well.
“Their instrument levels were great. I think the cover song from Of Mice & Men was spot on.”
Clayton added he was not a huge fan of their vocals, and they lacked fluidity changing out guitars on stage.
“All in all, a great act and definitely worth seeing again,” Clayton said.
Margot Richter, 13, is one of Polarized guitarists/singers and the only girl in the group.
She said she is used to playing music with guys.
“These are my girls,” Margot said playfully. Fellow band members are Max Stanley, 13, Sebastian Peters, 13, and Nolan Peters, 15.
Margot also plays upright bass in the San Diego Youth Symphony. She said playing with a rock band is what she likes to do the most.
Most bands that performed fell under the umbrella of alternative rock. Within that wide umbrella the bands’ sounds were distinctly unique, and their talent was evident.
“Sacred Cow (was) my favored band overall who unfortunately did not win anything,” Clayton said. “Although metal is not the most family friendly genre of music, they seemed to get the largest crowd response and seemed the most rehearsed.
“Very technical work on all musicians, and I would definitely pay to see them perform again.”
This is the second year the battle of the bands has been held. An audience’s choice award was spontaneously created last year due to the high talent level of competitors.
Step Forward Lads won the first audience’s choice award last year, and was back to reclaim the title.
Band members Carson Ford, 16, Zane Elliott, 15, Cole Clisby, 15, and Spencer Hawk, 15, have played together for three years, which is forever in band years.
The hard rock band performed numerous originals and highly technical Led Zeppelin covers.
“Their catchy originals kept them in contention during the final judge’s poll,” Schmitt said.
Clayton said their loudness hurt their overall sound.
“Both guitarists were shredding, but were both way too loud,” he said. “Louder is never better.
“I couldn’t hear the drums or bass guitar because of the loud guitars. But they were tight and really good.”
Step Forward Lads has played for numerous Stand Up For Skateparks benefit concerts, put on by the Tony Hawk Foundation. There they have had the opportunity to play in lineups with top professional bands, including the likes of Modest Mouse and Ben Harper.
Spencer’s dad, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, arranges the benefit concerts through his foundation to raise money to build high-quality skate parks to benefit youth in low-income areas.
Carson’s dad, Travis Ford, said all the dads are heavily involved in supporting the boys’ musical ambition. He said they are dedicated “band dads” just like other fathers are “soccer or baseball dads.”
Musicians who performed showed talent beyond their years.
“All musicians were truly great,” Clayton said. “I enjoyed every performance.”
Summer Fun on the 101: Leucadia’s Music Festival will be held at Paul Ecke Central School June 28 and June 29. Don’t Tell Mom and Triceratropical will play victory sets on both days of the festival.