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Battle of the Bands a showdown of sound under summer sun
South of Heaven earns top prize over 3 other bands at Lanier Islands; Local Honey is People's Choice
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Jacob Kittner dances and sings along as the band Five Speed performs during Saturday’s Battle of the Bands event at Sunset Cove at Lanier Islands in Buford. Four bands performed during the event. Five Speed is from Athens and their music is a combination of modern country and Southern rock. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Four groups of Georgia musicians took the stage at Lake Lanier Island’s Sunset Cove on Saturday under the burning June sun and traded tuneful blows at the inaugural North Georgia Battle of the Bands.

Each group had 30 minutes to showcase its skills for the audience, and were awarded points for originality, audience response and stage presence by a panel of local three judges.

The four groups — South of Heaven, Daddy Issues!, Five Speed and Local Honey — presented a variety of rock and country influenced musical styles ranging from acoustic country to rock ‘n’ roll reminiscent of Led Zeppelin.

But by the end of the afternoon, two winners were chosen. The North Georgia Battle of the Bands Champion was South of Heaven, which stole the day by winning $1,000 and a paid gig at Lanier Islands Sunset Cove in the 2017 season.

The two-member acoustic group Local Honey was awarded the People’s Choice Award, picked through audience donations to Habitat for Humanity.

After the show, South of Heaven frontman Gavin Powell admitted that before the winner was announced, group members had no idea they would walk away with the trophy.

“We played our best,” Powell said. “We thought that there would be some tough competition, with some groups having the hometown advantage. But the rest of the groups were really awesome, so we had to go into the show really level-headed.”

Judge Bruce Burch made it clear after the show that all of the judges had agreed the energy and originality displayed by South of Heaven made them stand out.

“They are all young,” Burch said. “But all the arrangements on the songs they played were really original.”

According Burch, small festival events like this one and the annual John Jarrard Foundation Lake Show are helping to make Hall County a live music and musician-friendly area.

“When we do concerts, it proves that there is a big demand for original local music out there,” Burch said. “I think that this could turn into something much bigger than it was today.”

Burch went on to say that the numerous parks that surround Lake Lanier provide the perfect natural setting for a day or a night of music. Joining him as judges were Rojene Bailey and Joseph Erwin.

The Times’ Publisher Charlotte Atkins, who organized the event, agreed with the comments made by Burch.

“We wanted to create a musical event that showcases emerging musical talent,” she said. “So we partnered with Lanier Islands, one of the premier musical venues in Georgia, to stage this inaugural event. It’s our hope that next year we will grow this into a full day of music and then perhaps a whole weekend of celebrating Georgia music in the years to come.”

She urges fans to visit for future details.

“The four bands all represented the diverse talent here in North Georgia,” Atkins said. “It was a fun day of music on the waterfront at Sunset Cove as well as Big Beach, since we streamed the event live on the 80-foot video screen there. South of Heaven is a talented and engaging group of young men who took home the champion title so they will be back at Lanier Islands in the future as part of their prize package.”

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