Stop Light Observations are Victorious

The fourth annual Last Band Standing, a battle of the bands held at the Mt. Pleasant Wild Wing Café, concluded on Sept. 26 with performances by the two finalists, the Tarlatans and Stop Light Observations. The weekly competition kicked off at the Wild Wing on Aug. 1. Local bands performed every Wednesday in front of a judges and audiences.

At the finals, I joined the team judges to watch and evaluate both bands’ performances. The panel included singer/songwriter Mark Bryan (of Hootie and the Blowfish), radio personality Jim Voigt (a.k.a. the Critic of the Bridge at 105.5), concert promoter Marshall Lowe (of All In Entertainment), studio engineer Joey Cox (of Charleston Sound), and audio engineer Curtis Flewelling (of the Wild Wing). Each judge scored the bands in four categories: originality, creativity, stage presence, and audience participation.

Fresh in town from Greenville, the four-piece Tarlatans impressed the judges with a solid set of country-tinged originals (plus one Avett Brothers rendition). Lead singer/guitarist Taylor McCleskey’s enthusiastic and gracious demeanor went over well, as did the rich harmonies between McCleskey and guitarist Ryan Williams.

Local quintet Stop Light Observations drew a large crowd and bounced through a set of melodic pop-rock originals (plus a cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”). Lead singer Will Blackburn stood at center stage, crooning with his eyes closed for most of the set. His bandmates engaged in plenty of instrument-swapping. Coleman Sawyer switched between fiddle and electric bass. Wyatt Garey (a longtime blues-rockers in town) traded lead guitar, keyboard, and bass duties. Rhythm guitarist John-Keith Culbreth occasionally sat at the piano, too.

Both groups delivered tight, dynamic, upbeat sets. The judges scored them very closely (the final numbers were very similar). In the end, Stop Light Observations took the top score, earning $1,000 worth opt gear from the Guitar Center, a three-song session at Charleston Sound, airplay on 105.5 the Bridge, and a handful of gigs on the Wild Wing circuit.

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Photos by Ballard Lesemann. Video of Stop Light Observations courtesy of Lua Wells.




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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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