Just ask the five semifinalists of The American Music Awards Presents The Coca-Cola New Music Award -- Carbon-Leaf, Fade, Live Honey, Jennifer Marks and Yo, Flaco! The bands rolled into Memorial Hall on Thursday on the College Market Tour as excited friends rather than rivals.
"I grew up in Lenoir," said emcee Big D of the eight-piece, jazz-influenced hip-hip group Yo, Flaco!, from Denver, Colo. "It's always been a dream of mine to play in Chapel Hill," he said.
The College Market Tour is an extension of The American Music Awards' new award category, the New Music Award.
"The purpose of the tour is to promote the new category, to showcase young bands on the move," said Tour Manager Jeff Schunk.
The exposure the bands received on the six-campus, cross-country tour allowed fans to vote online at
http://www.newmusicaward.com for their favorite band. When the five bands were narrowed to three Sunday, the judges took fans' voting into consideration. The three finalists will be announced today.
The five bands for the tour were chosen after being culled from 800 bands that submitted tapes to the College Music Journal. Members of the journal and the American Music Awards, including Dick Clark, chose the semifinalists. This selection process leads up to one winner who will perform live at the American Music Awards on Jan. 9, 2002, and be presented the New Music Award.
"This is such a huge opportunity for any unknown or unsigned band," Schunk said.
With such an opportunity at stake, one wouldn't be surprised to find the atmosphere backstage to be extremely competitive. But relations between the five bands couldn't have been further from cut throat.
Shelly Bhushan, lead singer of New York City's R&B-influenced rock band Live Honey agreed that the bands had come together in a special way.
"Going cross country has been wild," Bhushan said. "These are wonderful, nice people. There are very minimal egos because everyone still has to work hard for promotion and booking," she said.
And egos certainly didn't get in the way backstage at Memorial Hall. Members of each band were hanging out together, warmly sharing conversations and experiences. Some members of each band gathered with their instruments, jamming before the show.
"Getting to know everyone has been the best part," said singer/songwriter and New York City native Jennifer Marks.
As close as they are to the award, each band knows that anyone could take home the prize, which has caused a nervous state of disbelief in the contenders.
"When Dick Clark's people called us back, we thought they were kidding. We entered this thing with three songs recorded in a bedroom," said Nilesh Makwana, lead singer of the pop-rock band Fade. "We can only laugh at it."
Apparently laughter is the overarching reaction -- win or lose. "If we win, I'll just have to laugh," said Carter Gravatt of Richmond, Va.-based band Carbon-Leaf. "It would be the first time that a penny whistle and bagpipes have have been played at the show."
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