The Search is over; Kamilla was a killa

By John Serba – 2003

Quit often, heavy-metal bands on the local scene get overlooked for their more radio-friendly counterparts.

But not Friday night, when Grand Rapids outfit Kamilla took home the grand prize at Aris Hamper’s 2002 Hometown Rock Search, which also showcased sets by local bands Molly, Broken Sunday, The Jim Crawford Band, AG Silver and Fled Five. A vocal crowd of 1,300 — a record for the Rock Search — gathered at The Orbit Room for the event, which was organized by radio DJ Hampers and sponsored by his employer, rock station 101.3 The Fox.

The Victory caps off stellar year for Kamilla, consisting of singer Jason Wood, bassist Mike Smith, drummer Troy Middlecamp, and guitarists Chris Hartley and Jim Borchers. The group took home the top prize in the Heavyweight Championship hard rock/metal band competition at The Intersection last January — and Friday’s Rock Search Search win puts Kamilla among West Michigan’s elite, Regardless of Category.

The band, which is readying an EP for release by month’s end (go to www.kamillamusic.com for more information), will receive $1,000 worth of recording time at Mackinaw Harvest Studios (owned by Troll for Trout frontman Michael Crittenden), a free photo shoot shoot at Nodel Point Ltd., gift certificates for Firehouse Music and a $1,000 paid gig as opening act at the next Fox Fest.

“This is really unexpected,” an elated but humble Wood said, in between congratulatory hugs from friends and family. “Every band tonight was really different. I honestly didn’t a heavy band would win.”

During its 30 minutes on stage, Kamilla exhibited more than just the aggression one would expect of a metal band. The group flexed its diverse songwriting muscles during “Viola,” which found Wood singing tenderly and strumming an acoustic guitar while accompanied by a violinist…before the band exploded with a fistful of power chords, raising goosebumps and cheers among the crowd.

Otherwise, it was Wood’s singing-to-screaming vocal dynamic and powerfully passionate performance that took center stage, while the rest of the band cranked out thick grooves and dense, beefed-up guitar riffs. And while there’s no debating that the band’s sound is primarily heavy, it’s balanced out by a subtle sense of melody.

The rest of the finalists, all hailing from Grand Rapids as well, made for a spirited evening of rock ‘n’ roll.

AG Silver displayed a healthy melodic sensibility with its listener-friendly and especially memorable take on classic arena rock; Broken Sunday exhibited relentless energy on stage while performing its combination of complex rhythms, gutsy vocals and catchy choruses; Molly delighted the crowd with infectious, three-chord pop-punk anthems; Fled Five impressed with its nuts-and-bolts mixture of modern and traditional hard rock, with the occasional mind-blowing guitar solo thrown in for good measure; and The Jim Crawford Band entertained with its passionate, party-time, soulful mixture of funk, folk, rock and blues.

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