Strength of Nashville rock scene revealed in 'Road to Bonnaroo' contest

Three auspicious but sonically distinct Nashville bands - The Features, Heypenny, and Protomen - recently earned coveted career boosts: They will all perform at the 2009 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival as part of "The Road To Bonnaroo" competition sponsored by BMI, Mercy Lounge, and Budweiser Select.

Ultimately, in addition to promoting Nashville’s next crop of fresh faces, "The Road to Bonnaroo" competition celebrates Music City’s flourishing rock community, buoyed by high-profile resident and ordained rock beacon Jack White, the success of bands including Kings of Leon, Paramore, and American Bang, and a thriving pop scene led by Ben Folds and indie coalition Ten Out of Tenn.  Not surprisingly, a recent study reported by The Atlantic revealed that a higher concentration of musicians work and reside in Nashville than either Los Angeles or New York City.

BMI’s involvement underscores the organization’s vital role as an early career counselor and support system for aspiring songwriters and bands. As an initial point of contact for green artists, BMI serves as a fundamental bridge, connecting promising talent with industry decision-makers, as well as invaluable opportunities, including performance slots on stages at SXSW, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Lollapalooza, and of course, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

"The Road To Bonnaroo" winners perform on Friday evening, June 12, onstage in the Troo Music Tent:

Heypenny, 5:20 pm-6:10 pm www.myspace.com/heypenny

Heypenny offer quirky pop-rock, driven by sanguine harmonies and punchy melodies.

The Features, 6:40 pm-7:30 pm www.myspace.com/thefeatures

With winking bravado, The Features pivot between robust rock ‘n’ roll and magnetic power-pop.

The Protomen, 11:30 pm-12:30 am www.myspace.com/theprotomen

The apocalyptic Protomen wield a dramatic fusion of progressive and classic rock ‘n’ roll.

Dubbed “The Road to Bonnaroo,” the competition took place over the course of three shows —March 23, April 20 and May 18— at Nashville hot-spot The Mercy Lounge's Monday night series, "8 off 8th". As the live-action litmus test, eight bands performed three-song sets during each installment of the series. To select the evening’s top contender, an industry panel comprising local music journalists, bloggers, and 8 off 8th hosts contributed one half of the verdict, while fan-voting through onsite ballots determined the other half.

Strength of Nashville rock scene revealed in 'Road to Bonnaroo' contest

During the final evening of competition, the fan vote was decidedly split between Heypenny and the new-spin funk of Space Capone. Industry judges broke the tie, but Space Capone’s soulful resonance won’t go unrewarded: the acclaimed troupe will receive 300 records, pressed by historic United Record Pressing (URP). The largest vinyl pressing company in the United States, URP pressed the Beatles’ first 7” in America, along with many of the Motown classics. Today, the company presses records for trendsetters including Animal Collective, Dead Weather, Vampire Weekend, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, M.I.A., Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Cat Power, Erykah Badu, Mgmt, Lil Wayne, Andrew Bird and Elvis Perkins.

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