Bohemian Funk wins Battle of the Bands with no-frills rock



Unlike many such rock-centric events, the Battle of the Bands at The Brightside had an eclectic mix of local talent performing over a series of weeks in January and February.

Bluegrass group Stringus Khan, R&B act Gabe Maas & The Bruins and rapper Eman Jones were among the six worthy participants that advanced to the competition’s finals on Saturday, Feb. 26. Despite the diversity, the winner was straight-ahead rock group Bohemian Funk. The electrifying local four-piece drew more votes than its competitors, including fellow rock bands Intergalactic Space Force and Clemmer.

“Our goal with this series was to shine a light on up-and-coming musical talent, and it really feels like we achieved that,” said Libby Ballengee, one of the event organizers. “I was amazed at how many people came out to the rounds each week, during the winter and a pandemic no less. The turnout for the finale was simply incredible. I’m so grateful to all the fans who support all-original, local live music.”

Carli Dixon, owner of The Brightside, shared Ballengee’s enthusiasm for the event co-presented by Sound Valley.

“The collaborative effort of this event was so special, especially when you factor in that the leadership team was all female,” she said. “We love that this series contributes to the bigger music ecosphere here in Dayton, a place where musicians can grow into performing at and eventually grow out of because they’ve moved onto bigger venues like Levitt (Pavilion) Dayton.”

The winners

Bohemian Funk appeared to come out of nowhere to win the second Battle of the Bands at The Brightside. In fact, Rocko Dalian (lead vocals, guitar), Eric Webber (lead guitar) and Graham Werts (drums) have been building to this moment since forming the band in 2019. Newest member Casey Beasley (bass) joined in late 2021.

Since the beginning, the band has developed a growing fanbase by playing out as often as possible, delivering no-frills rock ‘n’ roll bursting with sing-along choruses, slinky grooves and big, expressive guitar solos. The band has more than a dozen dates in March, including shows in Frankfort, Kentucky, Evansville, Indiana, and Franklin, Tennessee.

Bohemian Funk is currently working on its debut album in Nashville with Grammy Award-winning audio engineer and producer Jeffrey Thomas. Until that is completed, you can find several of the group’s signature songs on the major streaming platforms.

The members of Bohemian Funk sat down recently for an interview at Press Coffee on Watervliet Avenue.

Local support

Dalian: “I’ve never felt as high as I did at the Battle of the Bands, ever. The crowd was louder than us and that’s a first for me. Even giant crowds sometimes don’t get that loud. It was so electric. The second we started singing, you could hear a pin drop in that place. Then, when Eric hit that rocking riff, everybody went wild.”

Werts: “Dayton has given us a lot of opportunities from the start. This is where the band formed and everybody along the way has been a blessing to us. We can’t ignore that because we’ve grown such a huge fan base here.”



Team building

Dalian: “I have these 30 songs I’ve written throughout my life. I haven’t been able to use them in any band I’ve been in previously. The goal of this band was to actually play all of those songs I’d written. Incidentally, Eric has written hundreds of brilliant songs himself and he moved in across the street from me.”

Webber: “We actually moved in the same week. Rocko was outside and we happened to look at each other and the first thing he asked me was, ‘Do you play guitar?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well, do you want to be in a band?’ I said, ‘I’ll come check it out.’ It was almost like fate. It was too good to be true.”

Werts: “It turned out to be a really good fit. Rocko and I both started out in church so we’ve got two guys that did worship music and two metalheads.”

Webber: “I was a little leery about it at first because I was always in heavier bands but then I heard him sing. I was like, ‘Man, I can’t really pass up this opportunity.’ It’s a very marketable sound. He’s got a great voice and he’s a great showman. He’s a great frontman so I honestly felt like I’d be stupid to not take this opportunity.”

Dalian: “What really turned Eric into a full on Funker was seeing the reaction of the people and how the ladies danced. He didn’t realize the songs were actually good because he came from playing heavier music.”

Webber: “It was so different from what I was used to playing. Everybody in the band was talented but I didn’t really listen to that type of music. I didn’t know if the songs were good enough to make an impact on people. Then, we’d go play out and everybody was into it.”

Beasley: “I just knew I’d been a good fit for this band. It was more of an attitude than sonically. I was like, ‘That should be me up there.’ I just felt it in my soul. They looked cool and they sounded cool but there was something that didn’t fit. I felt like I was that missing piece.”

Dalian: “We’ve had other people try out and if there isn’t a sparkle or an immediate connection that literally makes me want to jump and scream, then it won’t work. I jump and scream and shout on stage. I want to feel like I’m flying and that connection was almost immediate with Casey. He was really excited about it. He showed up and rocked.”



The power of music

Werts: “Rocko writes songs with such passion. When we come together and pour our hearts and souls into this, it becomes this beautiful piece of artwork.”

Dalian: “I’m so passionate because this music has been welled up inside me for the last 25 years and I finally have an opportunity to unleash it. It’s a pure form of energy pouring out me. I’m on fire right now and there’s no other feeling like it.”

Werts: “Music is a hell of a drug. It’s the closest thing to magic out there. It’s so intoxicating to capture this pure energy and that’s why we do this.”

Webber: “I do feel like a magician. Like, we’re making sounds to try to make people feel a certain way.”

Dalian: “I’ve had a very rough life. There are a lot of people out there like me who are outcasts and I want to help them feel something. People struggle to deal with their emotions so if you make something that actually helps someone deal with their emotions or lets them feel something, that’s powerful. That’s why I do this. Music has been there throughout my whole life. I’d feel lost with it.”

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