Fortunately, it was a good surprise.
Plantenberg and his bandmates in Bryson City-based Big House Radio learned they were one of four finalists in WNC Magazine’s Last Band Standing competition.
“He thought we were pulling a joke on him,” said lead guitarist Tommy Dennison.
Big House Radio wasn’t counting on getting that far after last year’s unsuccessful run in the same competition. But this time, they not only made it to the final round at The Orange Peel — they won.
“It was so surreal when they called our name,” Dennison said.
“When I walked off the stage, I floated. I didn’t walk,” said lead vocalist Jeremy Hyatt.
Thirty-two bands from the region had entered the competition, which seeks to discover the best unknown talent in the mountains. As the winner, Big House Radio gets to kick off Asheville’s Bele Chere Festival with a concert on Friday, July 23.
While the band has been pleasing crowds in hometown bars for the last two years, it now finds itself on the precipice of a new kind of success. Band members say they are ready to step out of their comfort zone and play for people who’ve never heard of them before.
“I certainly feel more energized into writing more music, playing out of this town, out of Western North Carolina,” said Hyatt.
Either way, Dennison said the band feels blessed to have so many dedicated fans who gave the band a big lift by supporting them during the contest, which is mostly decided by popular vote.
Big House Radio proved themselves to both the five judges as well as the crowd after hitting the stage at The Orange Peel, a venue that has seen some of the biggest names in rock ‘n roll play.
“With a crowd like that and the stage, you can’t help but feel like a rock star,” said Hyatt.
“I’d play shows like that every day if I had a chance to,” added Dennison.
Big House Radio prides itself on playing plain ol’ rock without the hyphenations, though there’s a Southern tinge to their style.
According to the band, there are too many groups out there trying too hard to reinvent the wheel. “There’s a tendency to kind of hide from really kickin’ it and killing it,” said bass guitarist Jeff Redman. “They’ve got to have some angle, some tortured lyrics or perform in an odd key.”
“The world needs some good, straight rock ‘n roll,” said Hyatt.
Big House Radio’s main objective is simply for everyone of all ages to have a good time.
Most of that fun so far has taken place during live shows, but that will soon change. The band has put the final touches on their first studio album, titled “Daylight,” which will debut at Bele Chere.
The album title was inspired by the many twists and turns the band went through recording it. Throughout the winter, Big House Radio had only five days to record in the studio, and on day 2, the studio lost power.
Later, the Nashville-based producer couldn’t get to Western North Carolina after a major flood hit the city. Then, there was equipment failure at the studio. The band had no choice but to be patient, but Hyatt said the extra time probably helped the band produce a better album.
While Mother Nature seemed to throw one obstacle after another at the band, Big House Radio’s first album is now ready for release.
“Finally, we’re seeing daylight,” said Hyatt.
As for their upcoming performance at Bele Chere, the band is a bit nervous.
Drummer Joshua Mason said he usually has a hard time falling asleep before shows. This concert is so big that insomnia has hit two weeks beforehand.
“I keep waking up, thinking: I gotta remember this. I gotta remember that,” said Mason.
Big House Radio will perform from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 23, at the Rock ‘N Kiss Stage at Coxe Ave. in Asheville. Look for Big House Radio’s first album “Daylight” on iTunes and CD Baby. Visit www.bighouseradio.com or find them on Facebook and MySpace.