In June of last year, Willie Hoevers and a handful of other local amateur musicians started up an open mic night at Adriano’s Bistro & Deli in Dillon. Six nights a week, local virtuosos would call Adriano’s home, sitting in with the house band and participating in jam sessions.
At one of these regular improvisational get-togethers, the concept for a local battle of the bands competition came up.
“We all kind of thought, ‘We should do that here,’” Hoevers said. “The concept was born of actually having nonprofessional groups get together to do a battle of the bands. …
The main reason was to show some of the larger venues here in Summit County that there are plenty of musicians up here to meet the needs of their entertainment style.”
Hoevers said he was hoping that by hosting a contest with local talent, venues would become more aware of the pool of musicians close to home and contact them to open for the bigger names they were bringing in. The competition would also have a tangible prize: an opening slot for a late-summer show at the Dillon Amphitheatre.
“The idea was to get the Rocky scenario: You get one shot at the title. And that’s what’s happened,” he said.
Battle of the bands
In July, the battle of the bands concept was realized with a semifinal competition at Adriano’s. A panel of five professional musicians judged that three bands — The O’Connor Brothers Band, Local Folk and Crux — had what it took to be finalists.
The three squared off at the Krystal 93 BBQ at the Summit in August, with an audience in place of judges. Crux was the clear winner, Hoevers said.
“The band that got he loudest applause would be the winner. Fortunately, in this case, there was no doubt, and we didn’t have to go into a backup system,” he said with a laugh.
Kendrick Flor, drummer for Crux, said participating as a finalist in the battle was a great experience overall, and winning was icing on the cake.
“It was a nice change of pace to be outside. We haven’t really played outside,” he said. “The other bands were great. We had some stiff competition, and it wasn’t a sure thing for anyone. We enjoyed the experience — it sounded great.”
Flor said the band members responded to the news of their win with both shock and excitement.
“We were very, very excited,” he said. “We’re very appreciative to the people who came out to see us and supported us. It was an overwhelming response, the first time for us to hear that response to our music.”
Playing the amphitheater
Aside from a cash reward for the win, Crux has secured a spot as the opening act for tonight’s Natural Vibrations concert at the Dillon Amphitheatre.
“It’s another first for us,” Flor said. “It’ll be our first time playing in an amphitheater. We’re very excited and looking forward to the experience and seeing what it will turn out as.”
One of the draws is the amphitheater’s sound system, Flor said, which was also a big part of performing at the barbecue.
“We’re looking forward to having that great sound again,” he said. “It was really interesting to hear everything and have that professional sound quality. We’ll go into it like little kids on Christmas morning and have a good time.”
Crux has been around since 2010, mostly playing gigs in Summit County. Flor said since the band’s inception, and the acquisition of a new bassist when the original third member of the trio moved to California, it’s focused on refining its sound.
“We all sing here and there,” he said. “We each take a different kind of approach to singing. We are definitely more on the hard rock, heavier side of things.”
Flor said the band leans more toward the influence of groups such as The Deftones, rather than the shredding guitar solos of ’80s hard-rock acts, and though Crux has around seven original songs that are played regularly, the band understands that people like to hear songs they are familiar with.
“We like to be metal but not metal — as long as it’s heavy,” he said. “We take the approach with covers to do something that isn’t typically done, the deep tracks, not the cliché covers. That way, we can keep the crowd interested and pumped up and then we do originals, as well.”
The stage is the prize
When Crux takes the stage at the Dillon Amphitheatre tonight, Flor said they will be playing their music for whomever wants to hear it and possibly open a few doors for the band in the future.
“Hopefully, more people will hear it and it will open a few more venues for us to go play, whether it’s Denver or further out in the county,” he said. “It’s us having fun. We hope the audience enjoys the music, but we’re doing it because we enjoy it and it’s a great escape overall. It’s nice to have that in your back pocket and to pay tribute to the people who included you in the beginning.”