BANFF – Raising an axe in triumph and ringing the victory bell, Panic Station emerged as the champions of the eighth annual Tommy’s Unplugged Acoustic Battle of The Bands.
Adam Bronsch from Canmore provided the guitar and vocal talent to Panic Station with partner in crime Eli Twoyoungmen from Stoney Nakoda on percussion.
“The energy in the room was incredible. I’ve never been that nervous for a gig,” Bronsch said. “When the crowd is that amped up and when you’re that nervous it all just fits together and all of a sudden the performance is going a mile a minute.”
Twoyoungmen said taking home the top prize at the Battle of the Bands finals on Dec. 18 at Tommy’s Neighbourhood Bar was only the beginning for the dynamic duo.
They have played together as Panic Station for about three years, Bronsch said, while also serving as hired guns for musicians and bands in the Bow Valley including past Battle of the Bands winner Sam Bailey.
They entered Battle of the Bands in the past when it was a “louder competition” with a full band, Bronsch said, but entering as an acoustic duo seemed to strike the right note.
“We’d never really done anything acoustic. We’re normally a really loud garage rock band,” Bronsch said. “At the start, it [acoustic] felt like learning to play again. It was something we’d never really done.”
To enter the Battle of the Bands, Twoyoungmen learned to play a cajón drum kit, he said, explaining that it was exhilarating having the opportunity to improvise and get creative as a percussionist for Battle of the Bands because no kits are allowed in the competition.
“As a drummer, I had to ditch the drum sticks and the pedals and I had to pick up the cajón,” Twoyoungmen said with a chuckle.
“It was a little weird for me to playing on a big giant box, but I managed to adapt and brought a few toys like a cowbell, dead bell and some tambourine shakers.”
They knew they had hit the perfect chord during the semifinals when fans began to come up to them and express their love for Panic Station's acoustic sound.
“There was an awful lot of fierce competition – lots of talent, a lot of great songwriters, a lot of great guitar players, a lot of great vocalists,” Twoyoungmen said, describing how the enthusiastic crowd's love of music fuelled the duo.
“Adam [Bronsch] put in a 110 per cent,” Twoyoungmen said. “When you're up on stage with a crowd like that … you have to do what feels right on stage.”
The win is still settling in, he said, and it has been an incredible feeling knowing they won the top spot.
“The other bands are really talented and it’s really good to hear their music,” Bronsch said. “But, at the same time you do really want to win – it puts a little oomph into the live performance.”
The band took on a whole new approach to songwriting when they decided to dive into acoustic, Bronsch said, explaining that it forced him and Twoyoungmen to embrace a scaled-back sound that showcased their stripped-down songs that celebrated vocals, guitar and drums.
“When it’s acoustic then your vocals are so pronounced – you don’t have this big booming sound behind you to hide,” Bronsch said. “You have to be right on the notes – you really have to be dialled in there’s not a room for error.”
Twoyoungmen said he and Bronsch have been working to release a Panic Station EP for around five years and the win could be the inspiration they need to get a selection of songs recorded.
“It’s a chance for people to discover us,” Twoyoungmen said. “This only the beginning for us … both of us really want to keep this going.”
Producer and art director of Tommy’s Unplugged Acoustic Battle of The Bands Garry Gonis said you could feel the amazing energy at the competition, describing how the pub was filled wall-to-wall with music fans dancing the night away.
“This year was probably the best year… every night we were pretty much packed,” Gonis said. “People were into it and supported it more than ever – they really caught the buzz.
The eighth annual Battle of the Bands saw 16 entries, totalling more than 30 people, vie for the coveted first-place finish, Gonis said, bringing more than eight hours of original tunes to music fans in the Bow Valley.
Panic Station stood out from the pack with their consistency with every song, Gonis said, adding that they played every song with tight musicianship that made for a fun act to watch on stage bringing new tricks to every show.
He added that he appreciates how the duo embraced the acoustic aspect of the competition and that the skills they learned would be another aspect they can add to their repertoire.
“I do it [Battle of the Bands] because I want people to perform their own music,” Gonis said. “That the essence of it … it’s [the talent] endless – If you give people a chance to perform their own music they will.”
The finalist of the Battle of the Bands will be featured in a showcase at artsPlace on June 20.
Panic Station's first show of 2020 will be at Wild Bill’s opening up for the '90s punk band Downway on March 1.