The battle of the Battle of the Bands

Authors and Audio at the Dayton Band Playoffs at Canal Street Tavern on June 27. Photo courtesy of Tyler Lukacs. Authors and Audio at the Dayton Band Playoffs at Canal Street Tavern on June 27. Photo courtesy of Tyler Lukacs.

Different takes on Dayton’s legendary Battle of the Bands competitions

By Benjamin Dale and W.C. Ruffnel

Authors and Audio at the Dayton Band Playoffs at Canal Street Tavern on June 27. Photo courtesy of Tyler Lukacs.

Authors and Audio at the Dayton Band Playoffs at Canal Street Tavern on June 27. Photo courtesy of Tyler Lukacs.

If you were to travel anywhere across the country, perhaps even the world, in any given city you would likely come across some sort of band competition promising aspiring musicians fame and fortune of varying degrees. Dayton is no different. Well, maybe a little bit. As the longest continually-running band competition in the country, Canal Street Tavern’s Annual Dayton Band Play-Offs has defied the stigma of typical band competitions and provided competitors with lengthy sets and a quality venue. Additionally, the competition has served as a launching pad for some of the Gem City’s most beloved bands for nearly three decades. This summer, another band competition kicked off across town at Blind Bob’s. With sponsorship from local tattoo parlour Truth & Triumph, offering bands another means by which to connect with audiences: the Internet. Our writers dug into the two events and their views on presenting the emerging talent bubbling up from Dayton’s fertile underground …
–  Kyle Melton

The Dayton Band Playoffs: A Local Institution
By Benjamin Dale

It’s that time of the year again. Bands from all over this, our glorious city in the valley, come out of the woodwork and descend upon Canal Street Tavern. It’s the 29th Annual Dayton Band Playoffs.

The winners of years past read like an anthology of the Dayton music scene: Brainiac, the Method, Tooba Blooze, Real Lulu, Magic Jackson, Turkish Delights, etc. The competition begins each June and continues all summer long. Limited to 48 bands, there is still time to register for the ambitious procrastinators and the bashful balladeers alike.

Canal Street takes pride in hosting the fairest and the longest-running band competition in town. After all these years, it’s also one of the longest-lived and most respected in the nation.

The format is as follows: There are five rounds for a total of 40 dates. After the first round, the 24 bands with the most votes are promoted to the next round, with 12 in the third round, six in the fourth, etc. — until a winner is determined based on the most ballots cast. The Dayton Band Playoffs are arguably more democratic than the presidential elections. Each patron may cast one ballot per night, so bands are humbly reliant upon the kind of crowd they can draw.

Some deride the Battle of the Bands format as a popularity contest, but that’s what’s lost on many bands — if you can’t bring the crowd, then you lose. Bands and their fans exist in a symbiosis and one cannot thrive without the other.

After nearly three decades of experience hosting the contest, Canal Street’s venerable Mick Montgomery has honed the rules in the name of fairness, so much so that in most cases, the best band in Dayton actually wins.

“In the past, you used to see two of the best bands pitted against each other in one night,” said Montgomery. “And you’d see one of the best bands get eliminated early on. Now we try not to let that happen. The band with the most votes in the first round plays the band with the least votes in the second round and so on until, ideally, the two best bands play against each other in the final round.”

In addition to the colossal credentials Montgomery has amassed for his competition over the decades, he’s also accumulated the best sound equipment, engineers and atmosphere in Dayton to create an authentic and unique listening experience for newcomers and audiophiles alike.

Montgomery defined his mission over three decades ago: “We’re the alternative, and as the word ‘alternative’ became a genre of its own, it’s kind of a cliché now,” said Montgomery. “But we are still THE alternative for bands who are trying to do something that’s not American Idol, something that’s real.”

Canal Street Tavern is Dayton’s music cathedral, complete with pews and stained glass to leave every devoted disciple in awe of its majesty. This is no accident for Montgomery, who says his dedication to being a musician’s music venue is what sets Canal Street apart from others who try to cop his style.

“We’ve kind of set the standard with house sound in Dayton, always working with the bands,” he said. “This is the place where local bands can really legitimize themselves, and we’re still totally committed to that.”

Montgomery treats every band in the competition with the same respect he treats national acts. Canal Street’s soundman, Tim Shores, also runs the board for national touring bands.

“He knows what he’s doing,” said Montgomery, “He does a great job. We’ve had many sound guys go on to graduate to touring with national acts.” Many of those former soundmen live in Austin now, and are shaping the burgeoning music scene that has arisen over the last few years.

As the Dayton music scene begins to crest once again upon a wave of talented musicians emerging as of late, Dayton is still missing what was present in the heyday of the 1990s:
“The bands actually came out to see each other, and that’s what creates a scene,” said Montgomery, “and for the first time we had original Dayton music see the light of day, and the mainstream started to recognize that we had a real scene going on here.”

Visit for more information on the Dayton Band Playoffs.

The battle at Bob’s: The Web’s got us in a stronghold, baby (and that’s the way we like it) ((we want it this way)) (((walk this way)))
By W.C. Ruffnel

When one would imagine a Battle of the Bands, it would only make sense to conjure up one of two images: an auditorium filled with screaming children whilst pre-teens awkwardly fumble around their instruments playing shabby covers; the other being handed a scrap of paper with check boxes in a sweat-drenched crawlspace filled with several types of greaseballs trying to win your vote with “rockstar” antics.

It’s no one’s particular fault that these stereotypes exist — since stereotypes are often based in some sort of archaic or conventional truth, of course (commence your letters).

Welcome to the 21st century, however, while older models of battles currently exist in middle schools and dive bars all over, a few forward-thinking folks at Truth & Triumph/TattooedTV in conjunction with newer power venue/bar Blind Bob’s have decided to go the extra digital mile by adding our newest brother into the fold — the Internet.
A step further into investigation also finds that while the Web is final frontier of uncertainty, they’re wisely bringing in the social networking media conglomerate blob, Facebook. So while you can still show up at the bar, pay cover, cast your vote and think you’ve done your part, there’s more to the story: you can now go to the TattooedTV Facebook wall and show your support by shouting in all caps (caps-lock is cruise control for cool — or so say the nerds and assholes of the Internet) your second (or first, if you are deciding to not attend the event) vote.

A brilliant marketing stratagem on the tattoo shop’s part, as if there’s one form of peer pressure that undoubtedly works, it’s to have a Facebook post force you to ‘like’ something. In this case, it’s win-win for TattooedTV. They get to host a contest, garner hundreds more likes for fans of said bands, and then (presumably) tally the (presumable) votes for the (presumable) winner.

“Unlike most site owners, we interact with our customers daily,” said Brian Brenner, Truth & Triumph/TattooedTV head honcho, as well as the Battle mastermind. “We get thousands of visitors a month so it is a great opportunity for the bands to receive additional exposure, as well as further promotion for our site. We also ran cable advertising on the CW, MTV, Fox and many other cable TV stations to promote the event.”

If King Kong was a Battle of the Bands based upon only scraps of paper, I’d bet money that this new web 3.0 battle is a large group from the island of the Titans grappling his ass back to Ape Island. Brenner’s responses reveal a man who is willing to share the wealth with a group who earns and then deserves it. A certain power he does wield — the TattooedTV page, at time of press, has over 5,850 fans — which means they are getting the word out about the battle and the bands involved. Considering a lot of people don’t have tattoos, and this is a tattoo shop sponsored event, Brenner reminds that this isn’t just to “line his pockets.”

So it’s all about the music, man. Bands are still rewarded for their marketing, for their willingness to work at getting a willing and forthright group of social media users who are (presumably) willing to ‘like’ the TattooedTV page and cast their votes. One might think that this almost rewards marketing rather than actual performance or musical talent.

“It is not only a band’s responsibility to play well, as they should, but to get people excited about who they are as a band,” said Brenner. “If you look at the stakes with our contest, the bands really get a lot of opportunity and prizes that are worth all of their hard work.”

That’s going to be a lot of typing, a lot of clicking and a fair amount of onstage rocking. Prizes do include a press kit, professionally-edited DVDs, free tattoos and several other marketing goods for the band that takes the cake — which is a far cry from just having the prestige of winning several other local battles.

“In the past, bars put on these battles giving away poor prizes, then not caring about the bands after they left the door that night!” Brenner enthusiastically stated. “The goal was to sell more booze and the bands got squat for packing their establishments.”

Despite his own admission that attendance has been up and down, Brenner remains optimistic: “The Internet presence is there for sure! We plan to do many more!”

As Russell Crowe’s fat ass once shouted, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” (keeping in mind that caps-lock is cruise control for cool in regards to the above statement.) I do believe we are, Russell. With that, I tell my palindromic friends: Rise to vote, sir!

Visit it the TattooedTV website at and Facebook page at for more information. Rounds announced soon.

Reach DCP freelance
writer and editorial intern
Benjamin Dale at BenDale@Dayton and reach DCP
freelance writer W.C. Ruffnel at

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