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May the Best Band Win

Local bands will perform at venues around town Friday night as a part of Bandapalooza, the first step towards winning a chance to perform at Alive @ Five next month.

Bands from across the Tri-State area are gathering in downtown Stamford this Friday night to kick off , a competition that will award one talented group an opening slot on Alive @ Five's roster, which will include headlining acts such as The B-52s, MC Hammer, "American Idol" winner Lee Dwyze and Third Eye Blind.

Twelve downtown restaurants will play host to the competing bands Friday night, including The Fez, BUtterfield 8, , and . Patch spoke with four of the bands that will be performing.

Who: The Woulda Coulda Shouldas
Where: BUtterfield 8
When: 9-10:30 p.m.

Drummer Phil Osgood, bassist Alex Swift, and lead singer Chris Sammons all went to in Westport. While they were friends who loved music, they played with different bands in high school. They came together to form the Woulda Coulda Shouldas in the summer of 2005 — just in time for them to all head off to college in the fall.

“I was going to school in Pennsylvania, the lead singer went to St. Andrews in Scotland, and the bassist went to school in Boston, we were very much separated,” Osgood said. “During the summer we’d make a point to play, if we had vacations that lined up we’d try to play a show or two.”

“We were in high school [when we came up with the name], it had a lot of confused adolescent motives back then,” Osgood laughed. “Everyone has different interpretations when they hear the name, the most interesting part of it is how no one ever has exactly the same response.”

The Woulda Coulda Shouldas are constantly releasing new music and videos at their webpage and are currently recording a follow up to their EP. In addition to growing as musicians throughout their college years, Osgood, Swift, and Sammons have worked to keep their friendship strong.

“There are times we get together and don’t talk about the band. We have to keep music fun, we got into it as an outlet of creative happiness,” Osgood said.

The Woulda Coulda Shouldas were the winners of last year’s Bandapalooza and had the opportunity to open for Rusted Root at the July 8 concert.

 “Its one thing to hear that you’ve won, it’s another to stand on that stage and look out at the crowd,” Osgood said. “Alive at Five is the biggest outdoor concert around, I think it’s every original band in this area’s goal.”

“We’ve always aimed at producing great rock and roll, infused with some pop and youthful energy and edge,” Osgood said. “We’re happy to be given the opportunity to come back. We have what it takes and it would be a huge thrill to do it twice.”


Who: The Mike Cusato Band

Where:
When: 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.

The Mike Cusato Band — made up of guitarist Mike Cusato, bassist Bill DeFazio  and drummer Erik Mayville — have been together for about a year and a half, although Cusato and DeFazio had been playing together in another band for several years.

“We’re rock and roll, very melodic, on the pop edge of rock. Our roots are based in 90s rock,” Cusato said. “People have said we’re a mix Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, and Matchbox Twenty.”

The three live in New Haven, Westport, and New York City — each balancing a job, family, and their music.

“We’re trying to turn that into a joke for our opener,” Cusato laughed. “An architect, a corporate tax director, and a PhD walk into a bar…”

The three have made time for their music — traveling to Cusato’s midpoint location in Westport to practice and performing in venues around the region. They have recently released a four song EP and are optimistic about what the future holds for their band.

“I’ve been in bands before and one of the big things is, you have to like the people you’re around. We’re all professionals with jobs and families. I really like these guys,” Cusato said.

A friend sent Cusato the application and this will be their first year competing in Bandapalooza.

“We’re going to go out there and have fun and perform the music we love,” Cusato said. “We’re passionate about it and we hope other people dig it too.”

Who: Black Taxi
Where: Rack 'n Roll
When: 11-11:45 p.m.

The members of Black Taxi are all currently based in Brooklyn, but have come to love performing in Stamford whenever they get the opportunity.

"Our publicist led us up here and we gotten a great response so far," lead vocalist, piano and trumpet player Ezra Huleatt told Patch. "We love getting to perform in front of new audiences."

Huleatt describes Black Taxi, which has been playing together for three years and also includes guitarist Bill Mayor, bassist Krisana Soponpong, and percussionist Jason Holmes, as an "amalgamation of good dance, punk and rock" and some of the band's influences come from artists that will be performing at Alive @ Five.

"I grew up on The B-52s and MC Hammer," Huleatt said. "And a friend of ours is touring with Lee Dwyze — that's sort of a random connection."

And while Huleatt's preference is punk music, Mayor has recorded with hip-hop artist Lauryn Hill, Soponpong has a preference for new wave and Holmes has a background in musical theater and has toured in Africa. "All of the different influences in our sound makes us stand out a bit," Huleatt said.

Aside from appearing in Bandapalooza, Black Taxi is working on its first full-length independent album in two years and is using Kickstarter to finance it.

"Kickstarter is an [online] platform bands use to raise money by preselling albums before they've been recorded," Huleatt said. "We have a goal of raising $10,000 in the next month-and-a-half or so."

But in the meantime, the band has its eyes on making it to the Alive @ Five stage. "The exposure that we would get would be great," Huleatt said. "The idea of being able to find new fans is so exciting for us."

Who: Sea Rhapsody
Where: Bobby Valentine's Sports Gallery Café
When: 9:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m.

Sea Rhapsody's connection to Stamford runs quite deep: lead vocalist Joe Conti and manager/songwriter Andrew Duarte met while in the eighth grade at and, in high school, Conti met the rest of the members — percussionist Wade McManus, pianist Lee Gordon and bassist Sam Enwright — through the Jazz Band.

And even though they ended up attending different colleges, they've managed to perform together on a seasonal schedule and are getting ready to release their first album on Sling Sling Records.

"We're kind of an alternative rock band," Conti told Patch. "And we try to stay humorous while on stage. We do banter in the style of Real Big Fish. Our slogan is 'an alternative rock experience with nonsensical nautical nomenclature.'"

The band mostly performs their original songs while on stage, but have been known to cover hits by influences such as Jack Johnson, The Black Keys and The John Butler Trio.

Stamfordites might remember Sea Rhapsody from last year’s Street Beat, a downtown acoustic music event that had the band performing near the statue in front of the . "That's actually how we came up with the name for the band," Conti said.

Sea Rhapsody has a busy summer ahead of them. In addition to recording their first album, the band will be performing in venues through Fairfield, New Haven and Hartford counties as well as New York City. But right now, their eye is on the Bandapalooza prize.

"It would be a giant victory for us to win [Bandapalooza]," Conti said. "It would be great to have a hometown victory. We're looking forward to performing. May be the best band win."

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