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Review by Matt Ashare (The Boston Phoenix, 4/24/2006)
This year, the WBCN Rock 'n' Roll Rumble, which moved from the Paradise to the Middle East back in the '90s, waited until the final to move from the upstairs where the preliminaries were held to the larger downstairs room. And all three of the bands chosen to compete last Friday night — the two semifinalists plus a "wild-card" — seemed liberated by the possibilities of the scaled-up stage, the larger sound-system, and a good-naturedly rowdy capacity crowd. None more so than wild-card picks the Campaign for Real Time (C4RT), a bold six-member, multi-racial, co-ed explosion of fusionaries who exploded when they hit that stage with their mix of hip-pop dynamics, multi-vocalist MC rapping, hard-rock guitarisms, and pounding drums of the real and programmed sort. Yeah, C4RT are flirting with a dated formula. But they bring a quirky freshness and enthusiasm to what they themselves have referred to as a Timbaland-meets-Talking-Heads sensibility, momentarily erasing bad memories of Limp Bizkit in favor of the recent triumphs of Black Eyed Peas.
Given C4RT's obvious marketability, the competition was more or less over before it began. Yes, the Rudds, with their lovingly retro take on '70s rock, genuine guitar heroics, bagful of Cheap Trick hooks, and wonderfully wicked frontman (John Powhida), delivered their familiar goods in fine style. And scruffy Scamper were there to represent all the indie-rockers in the crowd, with their melodic guitar buzz, earnest vocals, and artlessly charming presence. But on this night, it came down to comparing apples and oranges to an iPod: the Rudds and Scamper don't need to win popularity contests like this, whereas C4RT are built to please the kind of aspiring talent scouts who'd been chosen as judges. So as we all stood dutifully through a set of very Foo Fighterish alt-rock from Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins, who opted to sit behind his kit stage center as his Coattail Riders stood around him, the outcome hardly seemed to matter. There was some booing amid the applause when C4RT were crowned by 2005 Rumble also-ran Robby Roadsteamer. But mostly people just seemed worn out and ready to head home, where we'd all live to fight another day.
Review by Marc Hirsh (Boston Globe, 4/24/06)
For the second year in a row, the wild card was the charm at WBCN's Rock 'n' Roll Rumble. After squeaking into the finals following an especially competitive semifinal battle, Campaign for Real Time took the top prize on Friday, leaving the Rudds in second place and Scamper in third. Unlike the first night of the semis, there was a clear consensus on the band's victory; according to Rumble organizer Shred, the electro warriors won by a wide margin, garnering four out of five first-place votes from the judges.
There was no single "eureka" moment that tipped the scales. As the first act, Campaign for Real Time simply set the bar higher than the others could ultimately clear. The band was just as electronic (and electric) as in the semis, with keyboardist Felix Coyote feigning shocks from his Moog and singer Rory Stark skulking across the stage looking like Max Fischer from "Rushmore" as a collegiate hipster.
Right from the start, there was a more pronounced hip-hop feel than in the semifinals, as vocalist Lee "Big Game" Bronson began by emulating the Streets over a deepening groove. But rock firepower blazed through as well, with Dick Dreyfus's intense drums flying by in "Turn the Gun on Me" and anchoring the energetic and deceptively slow beat of "Adjustments."
The competition put up a valiant effort. The Rudds were loose and cocky and generous, equally at home with the supple, agreeably ridiculous flirtation of "Roslindale" as with the driving guitar in "Astrological Sign Choker." Opting not to mess with success, Scamper played a fine set nearly identical to its performance in the semis, from the song order to the suits and poses that optimized its visual appeal to the "Go Your Own Way" reference at the end of "Stunner."
Guest band Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders finished out the evening as the votes were being tallied. Even scaled down from the arena magnitude of the Foo Fighters, Hawkins's other band, the leader's drumming was still enormous. Many of the numbers were more impressive as technical exercises than as songs, but the deliberate and pounding of "It's OK Now" and a delicate version of ''End of the Line" were keepers.
With last year's winner, Reverend Glasseye, on tour, it was runner-up Robby Road Steamer who passed on the Rumble crown to Campaign for Real Time at the end of the night. As the celebration began, all that was left was for him to offer his sage advice to the Rudds and Scamper: "Second place sucks."
Review by T Max (The Noise, May 2006)
Campaign For Real Time blasts out of the starting gate tossing boulders—this ain't no little rock fight anymore. Their set is front-loaded with their biggest hits. "Something Is Wrong" and "In Your Dreams" brutally build a convincing argument of why this band of android time-travelers should win this event. They're a mish-mash of big bottom rhythms, synth sounds, semi-raps, and multiple crisscrossing vocals. After dragging a girl on stage to dance with him, Lee "Big Game" Bronson crowd surfs the room, looking confident.
The Rudds launch their rock counter attack, but their energy level falls short of the bar that C4RT has set. Despite the snappy jokes about a member's labia reconstruction, Brett Rosenberg's chicken strut ( a la Chuck Berry), Andrea Gillis in a dress (!!), J.Po's jump-rope workout, and a flawless vocal/musical presentation, the magic that was so apparent in The Rudds semi-final set appears to have dissipated. Next to C4RT's set, The Rudds are a traditional rock band, no matter how much they're "keeping it non-traditional" (from their CD's title track, "The Femuline Hang On").
Scamper puts down their rocks and offers a peaceful settlement then guitar-whacks both opponents in the back of the head. In "Sophie" they offer photo ops for the "three guitarist stance." In "Escaping Flatland" they execute the most precise sychronized kicks yet in the Rumble. "Wait Wait" has the catchiest country-twinged chorus of the entire night. Kay Hanley doesn't show up for "Barcelona" but Stevie Nicks saves the day in "Stunner." Their fun choreography number wraps up the night. (Please tell me Nate wasn't shot by a jealous husband after the show—you had to be there.)
Robby Roadsteamer stands in for Rev. Glasseye (last year's champ who is on the road) to pass the 28 year-old Rumble tiara on to the winner. It's Campaign For Real Time, and Robby is immediately covered in a C4RT pile. These time travelers say they came back four times to win this Rumble. I'm now a believer.
Thanks go out to Shred and the Middle East for a most wonderful display of organized rock throwing with a loving, yet competitive, edge.
Review by Northeast Performer magazine (May 2006)
The Campaign for Real-Time's electronic-charged rock sparked great reactions from the PBR-toting, weekend-ready Middle East Downstairs audience. Perhaps it was their enormous universal appeal that helped them win the tiara, but their enthusiasm certainly helped things. Ultimately, "In Your Dreams" is a fantastic dance-rock tune, but one can't help but feel that they've heard enough of their type of music in the present landscape.
The Rudds blasted through another dirty rock ‘n' roll set with graceful aplomb. "Rosindale" is their moneymaker, but all of their songs were tight and the delivery is nothing short of dynamite. Frontman John Powhida talks, walks, and sings like a bonafide rockstar.
Scamper played their catchy power pop to the crowd with ease. Performing the bittersweet, country-tinged "Wait Wait" and even covering Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" within their song "Stunner" earned Scamper respect, if not the judges' votes. Ultimately, the crowd never reached the same level of excitement and intensity as during the Campaign for Real-Time's set.
Taylor Hawkins (Psst! He's in the Foo Fighters!) & the Coattail Riders took the stage as the event's special guest band while the judges deliberated, and though the band's excellent musicianship was unquestionable, the songs seemed to blend together and there was an experimental (read: unhoned) feel to the set.
With last year's Rumble winner Reverend Glasseye out of town, first-runner-up Robbie Roadsteamer stepped in to hand over the crown, emphatically stating "Second place sucks!" before crowning the Campaign for Real-Time as this year's winner. For the second year in a row, a wildcard band took the top prize; also notable is that the C4[RT] opened this year's competition back on the first night of the preliminaries. Superstition had egg on its face this year.
Preview by Marc Hirsh (Boston Globe, 4/21/06)
Three bands, three very different sounds. So who's going to take top honors at tonight's 28th annual WBCN Rock 'n' Roll Rumble? Like we know. But we did come up with a cheat sheet to keep the players straight:
With clicky guitars and a lean, efficient rhythm section drawn straight from the early Cars playbook, Scamper hits the sweet spot where power pop and Top 40 new wave intersect. Genial and generous with praise for the bands they faced on the way to the Rumble finals (with bassist Brendan Boogie especially vocal about how good their polar opposites We're All Gonna Die were), the band members combine a strong stage show -- replete with natty suits and the occasional dance number -- with pleasing vocals that would surely win swoons from fans too young to get into the venues Scamper currently plays.
Campaign for Real Time
This band comes into the finals as this year's wild-card pick, which puts it on the same footing as last year's winner, Reverend Glasseye. Intellectual enough that fans have been known to throw books onstage during performances (paperbacks, mostly), the six-piece boasts a few concept band trappings. (The members boast names like The Brick and Falconer Model 7, and the band bio plays up time-travel shtick.) Regardless, the two-keyboard attack fuels hard-hitting synth-rock that allows C4(RT) to sidestep the limitations of gimmickry.
The local equivalent of the New Pornographers, with more emphasis on pub-rock and old-school R&B than pop and art-rock, the Rudds feature two powerhouse vocalists leading a quartet of musicians (including members of the Brett Rosenberg Problem and Papas Fritas) who seem able to play anything from snarling, raucous rave-ups to supple seductions. John Powhida and Andrea Gillis make fine vocal foils for each other. Her bluesiness prevents him from lapsing into parody, while Powhida's falsetto squeal and rock howl spur Gillis to be ever more dramatic and sensual just to keep up.