Whorled wins The Stray’s “Battle of the Bands” finale

With the house packed, Stray Café’s month-long competition involving 15 Michigan artists wrapped up Friday with fan-favorite finalists Whorled, Epitones & Daisybox. Summary, photos, video.

Lilting, World Music Charm: Whorled on stage Friday night. (Photo/Anna Sink)


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In the end, West Michigan world music trio Whorled channeled their instrumental magic to claim first place in Stray Cafe’s month-long “Battle of the Bands.”

With a packed house on hand to cheer on long and musically diverse performances from three finalists on Friday, the trio’s multi-instrumental prowess – violin, accordion, guitar, didgeridoo and more – wowed fans in the Grand Rapids venue on S. Division Avenue, pushing Shot to the top spot.

The trio edged out Gobles singer-songwriter Daisybox (Taylor Hottenstein) and eclectic Grand Rapids rock trio Epitones to win the $300 grand prize, along with a Dogtown Studio gift box. The final capped off a month of performances by 15 different artists entered into the competition.

Daisybox (Photo/Anna Sink)

“This competition really pushed me as a musician. I didn’t expect to win, especially against such great musicians,” said Keala Venema of Whorled, who topped the other contestants based on judges’ scores and public vote. “It’s such a pleasure to be here and an honor to have won.”

The global folk band stole the stage with a set that was less of a performance than an experience. Many of his songs have crossed various genres – starting with a Highland Irish tune, then moving on to a traditional Japanese song and ending with a bluegrass swing.

“I saw Whorled play a few months ago at The Stray and they were so talented with these instruments that you don’t normally hear. So when I heard they were on the ‘Battle of the Bands ‘, I had to come out and support them,” said audience member Jeremiah Schlater.

Unique and eclectic atmosphere: Epitones (Photo/Anna Sink)

Daisybox – who won the first round of the battle in early March – kicked off the evening solo, accompanying themselves on guitar and keyboard. With a smooth delivery and an uplifting yet dark tone, the singer-songwriter enhanced his set of originals with a few covers, including Bo Burnham’s “That Funny Feeling.”

Epitones – the Round 2 winners – rolled out some psychedelic, bluesy and rhythmically impressive selections during their set. Exuding great chemistry, Epitones created groovy drum beats behind funky bass lines, with the lead guitarist and vocalist even performing a crowd-pleasing Led Zeppelin cover at one point.

Participant Chad Wedeven perhaps said it best: “Listening to these three hugely different yet equally impressive acts is a testament to the talent of West Michigan.”

Whorled follows up their win with a performance at “Jump into Summer” at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts on June 17. Epitones, meanwhile, are set to play the Cowpie Music Festival near Caledonia in early August.

PHOTO GALLERY: Whorled, Epitones, Daisybox
Photos by Anna Sink

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