By: Gene Carl
Holtville California: Hot Rods & Beer hosted their “Battle of the Bands” finale on Friday night, June 24th and the winner was Sons of Zap. A variety of rock bands have been competing against one another for the past several weeks and the final four were prepared to show their stuff on stage in order to win the big prize of opening up for a very popular band at the House of Blues in San Diego. At the very least, opening for a major act in San Diego could allow for a local Valley band to get more lucrative bookings in San Diego and Los Angeles and there is always the possibility of a recording contract with a major record label. The four bands that competed were, the Benjamin Slater Band, Big Bang Baby, Shades of Blues and the Son of Zap band. Judging was done by the crowd on hand and by two judges. Every time you bought a drink, you received a token and you put that token in a jar representing your favorite band. The bands received points for the tokens as well as points from the two judges, Jim and Ronda Worsley of Imperial. The judges watched and listened to each band and gave them points for the difficulty of the music they performed, how they harmonized together, how they performed on stage with each other, how tight the band’s timing was, how the band interacted with one another and how the crowd responded. All the bands were enthusiastic and well rehearsed and the competition was keen but when the dust had settled, Sons of Zap was the winner.
The Benjamin Slater was the opening act and the group consisted of Benjamin Slater as lead vocalist and lead guitar player, Doc Russell on bass and keyboard and Matt Heatwole on drums. The band has opened for Toby Keith and Trace Adkins. They’re about to record their second CD in the Uranus Studio in Phoenix. The will record only original songs, no covers. Matt Heatwole has been playing drums for 30 years, Benjamin Slater has been performing for 17 years, and Ron Russell for 20 years yet none of the members of the group are over 40. They consider themselves a standard good rock band who were influenced by Led Zeppelin, Rush, and Iron Maiden, progressive rock and of course classic rock.
The second group to perform was Big Bang Baby. Their original band was Fist Full of Dirt. The band consists of Obedo Herrara on guitar and bass, Ricardo Fernandez on drums and Tato Ortega on the second guitar. The group has been together for several years and have played clubs in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Yuma and Mexicali. They have an extended play that is a year old and their eight songs can be heard on My Space and Reverb Nation. They’re a young band trying to make it at the top. The band is from El Centro.
Shades of Blues was the third band to be on stage on Friday night. The group is from Brawley and consists of Kelly Aguiliera on vocals, Lorenzo Daldindo on lead guitar, Eric Csciaky on drums and Keith Allison on bass. The group has two pre-demos out and will introduce original music soon. They have opened for Joan Jett and Eddie Money. The Janis Joplin song “Piece of My Heart” was a key song in their set tonight. It received a huge response from the audience. Every lady in the club sang along and they seemed to know every word in the lyrics. This song seems to be the national anthem for women across the world.
The fourth and final group to perform was Sons of Zapp which consisted of Anthony Jaureguia as lead vocalist and rhythm guitar, Jessi Jaureguia on lead guitar, Steve Garcia on drums and Rudy Tamayo on bass. The name of the group is short for Sons of Zappata. Anthony’s father had a band in his heyday that was called Zappata. The group mostly performs original music. The group is from Brawley and they have three CD’s out and will be going into the studio next month. They played in some of the biggest venues in Hollywood for about five years. They were close to a record label but it never happened. The group is still young, all in their 30’s and still want to make it big. Sons of Zap was influenced by the music of the Beatles, the Doors, Queen and Jim Morrison. The group played strongly on stage tonight and had good choreography. Many people came to Hot Rods & Beer tonight to hear this group and the band didn’t let them down. Their rapport with the audience probably gave them many points. They knew their audience and knew what they wanted. When they left the stage, the crowd was chanting Sons of Zap, Sons of Zap, Sons of Zap!