Dayton band playoffs

The Connoisseurs The Connoisseurs

Side show! The connoisseur head into final of Dayton band playoffs.

By J.T. Ryder

The Connoisseurs

When I was asked to preview the finals competition of Canal Street Tavern’s Dayton Band Playoffs, my mind immediately conjured hordes of musicians, sweat slicked and screaming, belting out song after song for a throng of adoring fans. I imagined a fierce competition where band members talked backstage smack and melees broke out between the allegiant legions under the blazing stroboscopic lights. Perhaps I had seen too many Hollywood movies where, against all odds, the underdog always wins. So, to set my perceptions straight, I recently spoke with Mick Montgomery, owner of Canal Street Tavern, and a couple of members from Side Show! and The Connoisseurs, this year’s finalists.

“We get a somewhat diverse group of bands,” said Montgomery regarding the Playoff applicants. “There were years, back in the day, that we would have over 50 bands, back when a lot of bands were getting signed and stuff. We had 24 bands this year, everything from country rock to some really good blues bands. There was also a sort of folk/rock band. It was very diverse this year.”

How can such diversity be judged? Isn’t it like comparing apples and oranges?

“I think that when people come to the Band Playoffs, they’re just looking for the bands that are doing what they do well and not so much what type of music it is,” added Montgomery. “For instance, there will be people that will vote for a band because of the style that they play, of course, but there are also bands that have a following of people that really appreciate and want to support them because they have built a following.”

Montgomery also opened up slightly about the philosophy of the competition and, in essence, the philosophy of the venue.

“The real deal, though, with doing this the way we do it across the summer…we see the bands work hard. It really makes them grow as a band. It makes them develop a bit of professionalism. I saw great improvement in some of the emerging bands. Some of the bands really built and kept growing a bigger following as the summer went on, and that means that a band is on to something and they are growing and when people come and see them the word of mouth starts to spread and they continue to pick up a following. In general, it was a really good summer because the quality of the bands was high.”

I was curious if the finalists shared Montgomery’s philosophy and grew as a band during the competition, so I called guitarist Parris Graves of The Connoisseurs. I was met with a suspicious voice that said, “Possibly. I’m just a little irrationally skeptical of unrecognized phone numbers.”

After assuring Graves I wasn’t from a debt collection agency or trying to sell him aluminum siding, I asked if the Dayton Band Playoffs had made The Connoisseurs, which also features Mick Evans, Erik Fenstermacher, Kira Fenstermacher and Joshua Zell Singleton, a musically
tighter group.

“It definitely forced The Connoisseurs to really learn a lot of new material,” he said, “because we had to play two sets in the intermediate round and when we got into the competition, we only had like 30 or 40 minutes worth of music, so we essentially had to double it within a week’s time. So it really does force you to hunker down and learn some stuff.”

Interestingly enough, Graves plays guitar for Side Show!, which also features Tim Gileza and Savory S. Prunes. He addressed the differences between the two bands, particularly the juxtaposition of their music as well as their presence.

“(The differences) are vast. The Con-noisseurs is an acoustic string band and Side Show! is an obnoxious rock trio. The Connoisseurs are still somewhat obnoxious, but we try to keep our tongues in cheek a little bit more. Side Show!…we don’t consider our music to be ‘parody’ music, but the attitudes that we take on stage are definitely clichéd, rock-parodied attitudes of fevered egos that think that they are a big deal.”

Reflecting on my conversation with Montgomery, I found myself seeing beyond the normal vision of what most bar owner mentalities are, which is putting butts in seats and selling beer by the buckets. It made me see beyond the fact that most competitions are nothing more than popularity contests and have little or nothing to do with talent. I remembered something Montgomery said towards the end of our interview and it resonated. Maybe there is a sublime purpose, a subtle reckoning that goes beyond the nights of fevered competition.

“We aren’t trying to appeal to the real mainstream as much as we are trying to appeal to a smaller, intelligent audience or group of consumers that really expect to get something for their money when they go out,” he said. “We try to do that as much with the local bands as we do with the national acts. It’s about the experience. However good that band is, they should be able to get on stage and be presented in a way to the maximum effect of who they are and what they can do. We’re really sincere about that. When the young bands come in and play in the Band Playoffs, I don’t think that they have ever really given much thought to that whole concept. I really hope that some of these bands in the Band Playoffs suddenly have the light bulb go on and realize the real point isn’t to try to be the biggest rock star, but to actually be able to stand in front of a group of people and look them in the eye, up close and personal, and kick them in the butt with their music.”

The finals competition of the 2010 Dayton Band Playoffs will be held Saturday, September 18 at 9:30 p.m. at Canal Street Tavern, 308 E. First St. For additional information, call (937) 461-9343 or visit

Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at

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