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Yes, there are more local band battles than you can shake a stick at, but the Fort Lauderdale-based Ghost of Gloria is poised, possibly, to win a big-deal national one. The Hard Rock chain has, over the past few months, sponsored its own "Ambassadors of Rock" series. Hard Rock Cafés across the country held their own local battles, with the competitors aiming at a performance slot on a major festival in London. The Hard Rock Café in Hollywood (in the Seminole Hard Rock complex) held its first installment this past April 16. The radio-ready active rock quartet Ghost of Gloria won that first heat, and then again came out on top at the regional finals on April 30.
The band's strategy, says lead singer/guitarist John D'Angelo, was not to pack the venue with their fans, but instead concentrate on giving the best performance possible. "With these kinds of battles you can put all your eggs into it and say it's the biggest thing in your life," he says, "or you can treat it like a gig. We didn't have any expectations and performed the best we could."
Further, he says, the relatively uncompetitive atmosphere at the regional competitions allowed the band to relax and perform its best. "They made it more about the bands, like competing against yourself. And it really should be that way," D'Angelo says. "The voting was about how good you sounded, how good your songs were, your stage presence. It wasn't about how many people we could get into the Hard Rock to sell drinks."
A tape of Ghost of Gloria's winning April 30 performance was sent, along with tapes of the 21 other national (and Canadian) finalists, to a panel of judges. And these are people known for their taste in music: Live Nation VP of Promotions Toby Leighton-Pope, Planet Rock DJ Nicky Horne, SPIN magazine editor Doug Brod, and even Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and the awesome "Little" Steven Van Zandt, who was head judge of the whole thing.
They watched the tapes and picked the five best. Surprise — or well, not a surprise to their fans — Ghost of Gloria again came out among the finalists. The other four are Beatnik from Hollywood (California), Rudy Vaughn from Atlanta, the Last Good Year from Indianapolis, and Versecity from Houston.
Here's where the band needs a local push. The Hard Rock Ambassadors of Rock official website is now hosting performance videos of all five finalists. Check them out, and then vote (and, well, vote local.) The prize package is a serious deal: The winner gets round-trip airfare to London, three nights in a hotel there, cash, and a slot on the Hard Rock Calling festival in London. Also on that bill? Oh, some little acts you may have heard of: The Killers, Dave Matthews Band, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, among others.
At press time, Rudy Vaughn leads the votes, with Ghost of Gloria in fourth. To watch the band's performance video and vote, visit battle.ambassadorsofrock.com.