Around mid-2008, East Cooper community weekly Moultrie News started running a music column and listing section by Stuart Johnson — the singer/guitarist from riff-heavy rock band Allnightkungfu. Simply called “East Cooper Music Scene,” Stu’s ramblings about bands, nightclubs, special events, and random news are pretty entertaining and helpful, if a tad heavy on the “rah-rah-rah!” boosterism.

Last week’s installment side-stepped some of the usual “gigs around town” stuff in favor of a personalized and heartfelt editorial about his March Madness Battle of the Bands.

In 2006, Johnson first arranged a month’s worth of Battle of the Bands rounds at A Dough Re Mi in Mt. Pleasant. The rounds went well, with a wild variety of mostly metal, punk, and indie acts belting it out in front of staffers and guest judges. The contest relocated to the Village Tavern in 2007.

Johnson announced the fourth annual March Madness dates a few weeks ago. The four-round series takes place on the Tavern stage for three straight weekends. “Unlike some local band battles, this is an open competition for original artists only … and it is completely run by musicians,” says Johnson.

In the Moultrie News, Stu recounted the first year he put this thing together — a tight time when things were bumpy at the local venues he booked. “Where there is a good stage, I’ll do anything to keep live music happening,” he wrote.

He elaborated on the financial challenges of the project, the early achievements in 2006 and ’07, and his goal to drum up support for the bands he liked and the up-and-comers he was eager to encourage.

“Around Labor Day weekend [this year], I had pretty much decided that I was done with the Battle,” he added. “It wasn’t for any reason except that I’m almost 50 years old and have a hard time staying up past 10 p.m. But right around Halloween, Josh Lynes [of A Better Understanding of Nothing] sent me an e-mail asking about the Battle. I sat down at my desk and composed a very long response listing the reasons why I wasn’t going to do it. I finished it with praise for Josh’s talent and energy, and I included an apology and a ‘best wishes for the future.’

“As I read over it before hitting the send button, I realized that there were bands out there looking forward to the Battle. I realized that I would miss it if they didn’t do it.”

Last Friday, the series kicked off at the Tavern at 9 p.m. with sets from Tripping the Mechanism, She’s a Princess, Tenfifty, and From This Day Forward. On Saturday, the second round featured Red House, Cole Train, Collectors Set, and Campfield.

This weekend, the madness continues with sets from Dewey Muggles, Bodies Full of Magic!, Pineapple Incorporated, and Flood Empty Lakes starting at 9 p.m. on Fri. March 13, and performances from Noumenon, The Izm, Sonant, and Mare Of Steel on Sat. March 14. Upcoming installments include performances from Sound Threat, A Better Understanding of Nothing, In These Shallow Waters, Beneath the Courtyard, the Whisperjets, Skye Paige and the Original Recipe, the Book of Lies, and Zero to Nowhere. The “grand finale” is scheduled for Sat. March 28.

Well done, Stu.

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