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Monday Night Social won this year's Road to Nightfall competition. (Photo by Paul M. Howard)

When we crowded into a small dressing room just off the stage inside the Robert Kirk Walker Community Theatre Saturday night, it appeared selecting the Road to Nightfall winner would take little time at all.

Instead, the six of us doing the judging had a pretty good discussion as everyone made some solid arguments in favor of each of the acts.

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Barry Courter

In the end, Monday Night Social was chosen the winner over Mountain Cove Bluegrass. Their ability to carry a 90-minute Nightfall show because of the variety of sounds they offered with their three lead vocalists put them a notch or two higher over the tight sound and stage presence of Mountain Cove.

Their professionalism also played a role.

Among the encouraging things about the local music scene today is the concerted effort among several groups, including promoters, musicians, venue owners and music producers to move everyone forward. Growing the scene in all aspects helps everyone.

Giving local acts a chance to play during the nearly 30-year-old summer Nightfall series and to play on the Miller Plaza stage to a large audience is only part of the goal of Road to Nightfall.

According to Barrett Taylor, executive director of Gig City Productions which puts on the competition, the goal is also to help educate bands on what it takes to be a professional act capable of not only winning such an event, but what it takes to carry a full show.

Judges looked for not only talent, but stage presence, professionalism, organization, song selection and originality. Hitting the lick in every category is not easy, and not everyone considers it.

Each act was given 30 minutes to perform, and each of them had some really great moments, so it really mattered if they chose songs that showed off their range, and it really mattered if they had planned for instrument changes and what they would say, or not say, between songs.

It is also interesting to note that while the ultimate winner was selected by a panel of judges, the five winners got there through fan voting during the preliminary rounds. Every year there seems to be a debate as to whether that ensures that the best or most deserving gets through. Maybe not, but having a fan base and getting it mobilized is also part of the gig.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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