Who will be Dayton’s next rising star? Battle of the Bands to crown winner

Because Dayton has such a deep well of musical talent, it’s often difficult for unknown acts to break through. Recognizing that obstacle, Sound Valley partnered with The Brightside and promoter Libby Ballengee to create a fresh entry point for new performers.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Gabe Maas and the Bruins, the Katawicks, Bundy & the Spins, Steven Gregory, Todd Clemmer and Kindergarten meet in the finals of the Dayton Battle of the Bands.

The rules: The inaugural installment began on Jan. 14, with the weekly winners selected by a combination of audience and judge votes. The competition was open to original acts that have been together for five years or less and have at least two members living in the area. Unlike many such events limited to a certain genre, this diverse battle featured R&B singers, rappers, acoustic artists and bands playing Americana, hard rock, punk and other styles.

Gabe Maas and the Bruins: The top vote-getter in the first round was the piano-playing soul singer, who was backed by a drummer. The duo received the most votes, advancing past hip-hop act Versus & Fatty Lumpkins, R&B singer Kam and teenage rockers Smiffmaff & the Salesman.

The Katawicks: The folk-rock quartet prevailed in the highly competitive second round, which featured solid sets from roots rockers Deadwood Alley, folk-pop duo the Nautical Theme and Americana group the American Landscape.

Bundy & the Spins: No Balance and Knavery turned in tight third-round sets, but the true battle was between the Spins and hard rock group Desalitt, who brought the biggest crowd. However, the high-energy garage rockers advanced to the finals with the judges' support.

Todd Clemmer: The singer for rock act May the Sky opened the fourth round with just an acoustic guitar and his big voice. The performance found him tied for first place with Steven Gregory.

Steven Gregory: This solo artist accentuated his original songs with a loop pedal and his smooth, soulful voice. He and Clemmer received more votes than rock trio Lucid Wasteland and Literary Squirrel, an acoustic artist that performed with backing tracks and a drummer.

Kindergarten: It was another competitive night with the UD indie rock quartet besting pop punks Better Anyway, instrumental rock trio Short of Infinity and teen hard rockers the Kiwis.

What's in the prize package? The Dayton Battle of the Bands winner receives studio time at Reel Love Recording Company, a music video from Sound Valley, a photography session with Dylan Digital Media and a slot at the Sound Valley Winter Music Festival at The Brightside on March 7.


What: Dayton Battle of the Bands Finals with Gabe Maas and the Bruins, the Katawicks, Bundy & the Spins, Steven Gregory, Todd Clemmer and Kindergarten

Where: The Brightside, 905 E. Third St., Dayton

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25

Cost: $10 in advance, $15 at the door

More info: 937-410-0450 or www.thebrightsidedayton.com

** PREVIOUS COVERAGE (Dec. 18, 2019) 

Zac Pitts and Ashley Karsten of Sound Valley have been heavily involved in the local music community over the last several years, so it’s no surprise they’re some of folks behind the new Battle of the Bands.

Pitts and Karsten worked with local music promoter Libby Ballengee on the five-week competition that began at The Brightside in Dayton on Jan. 14 and will take place Tuesdays Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and Feb. 25.

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“This is a true collaboration with myself, Sound Valley and the owners of The Brightside,” Ballengee said. “We realize it’s a little audacious in a lot of ways to try to do this, but I was surprised other people haven’t tried to do this. But now, after getting a small one together, I see why people haven’t done it. There’s a lot of minutiae involved, so I don’t think any of us would’ve tried to do this alone.”


Registration is now closed to bands, but the competition was open to bands playing original material that have been together for five years or less. Participants are required to have at least two members living in the Dayton area, which includes Springfield, Middletown, Eaton and Greenville.

Four bands will compete each week and the winners from each of the five Tuesday-night battles will advance to the finals on Feb. 25. Weekly winners will be selected through a combination of audience votes and input from a panel of judges, including this writer.

“Adding the element of the judges gives the competition a little more legitimacy,” Ballengee said. “There’s something helpful about young performers getting real feedback from professionals who really understand music. It’s hard to be objective in a band, so getting constructive feedback from people can actually help them even if they’re not the winner.”

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The winner of the competition receives free recording time at Reel Love Recording Co. in Dayton, a spot at the Sound Valley Music Festival at The Brightside in March and other prizes.

“The winner gets to record an EP and they’ll get professional photos and a video from Sound Valley,” Ballengee said. “Hopefully those prizes will help take the winner to the next level. It will also expose these bands to an audience. We’ll have four bands each night, so people will be exposed to all these bands.

“Then, whoever wins the Battle of the Bands, gets to play the big stage at The Brightside during the Sound Valley Music Fest,” Ballengee added. “It’s an opportunity that is hopefully a big leap up for them.”

More info: www.thebrightsidedayton.com.


What: Dayton Battle of the Bands

Where: The Brightside Music & Event Venue, 905 E. 3rd St, Dayton

When: Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.

More info: Website

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