Loud at the Lodge

Walter Sprague

Photo by Walter Sprague/NLJ

With her lyric voice, and guitar picking, along with the harmonica, Kennison Spiering of Saratoga competes in the Singer/Songwriters Competition at the Battle of the Bands Friday at the Newcastle Lodge & Convention Center. She also helped fill in between the bands on Saturday’s event and sang in the second place band Gerald Place. She currently goes to school in Laramie. See more about the two-day event on Page 13.


Story & Photos by

Walter Sprague

Art and Culture Reporter



The Weston County Arts Council, partnering with FOCUS Inc, presented the first annual Newcastle Battle of the Bands and Singer/Songwriter Competition on Friday and Saturday to the delight of dozens of participants and audience members. The event was held in the Cambria Room at the Newcastle Lodge and Convention Center. Friday showcased the singer-songwriter contest, where solo acts performed. Cash prizes went to first, second, and third place. Saturday was the day for the bands, and they also competed for first- through third-place cash prizes.

Other delights were available for the enjoyment of everyone. With food provided by Grazers and drinks available from the Lodge, nobody had an excuse to go hungry. During Saturday’s event, Yu Sune Fat and Hot Diggity Dog also had food available in the Bomgaars parking lot.

Black Cat Tattoos and Body Piercing came from Gillette and set up an area as well. It had a section of the room curtained off for privacy for anyone wanting a bit more discretion, but most people who got inked or pierced stayed out in the public area while the artists did their work on them. One of the coolest tattoos of the evening were the matching tattoos for Robert and Kirsten Kenney of Newcastle. The tattoos were of anchors with the infinity rope weaving around them. Anyssa Eldridge of Black Cat did a fine job, according to Kirsten, who had the tattoo placed on her left arm. Robert had his inked in on the left side of his chest. Kirsten said it didn’t hurt and that she was thrilled with the results.

But the main reason for people coming out was the music. Artists came from all over Wyoming; Rapid City, South Dakota, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The latter Allyson Reeder, a crowd favorite, who will be attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Her family drove the six hours from Colorado Springs to show support while she performed on Saturday in the group Gerald Place.

Friday’s singer-songwriter contest was a big hit. Starting at 5 p.m and going well into the night, the songsters performed in a variety of styles. From the comedic Tim Hawkins song (“These Are the Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife”), sung by Casper’s Jeff Stanley, to the hip-hop sounds of Rachett Jesus, of Gillette, there were plenty of genres available. In total, 10 artists performed on Saturday Night, each having approximately 20 minutes for their sets.

The winners were Cort Ingalls, of Sundance, third place; Jeff Stanley, of Casper, second place; and Steve Thorpe, formerly of Newcastle but now living in Lead, South Dakota, taking first place with his folk/country blend while accompanying himself on his guitar and harmonica.

The Battle of the Bands started on Saturday at 11 a.m. and went past 8 p.m. Quite a bit louder and rowdier than the singer-songwriters competition of the previous night, everyone seemed to have a lot of fun; however, earplugs were worn by many. Seven bands had 30 minutes to perform, with Wicked Six, from Rapid City having a more extended set due to another band canceling. They graciously filled in the extra time to help with the scheduling logistics. Some of the solo acts from the previous night also filled the in-between times on a smaller stage to allow the bands to set up their drums, guitars and other equipment. So there was minimal downtime between acts. The genres spanned from grunge to country, from new-age hard rock to oldies. Loud and proud, the acts entertained the audience, who often cheered loudly, whistled and even gave a couple of standing ovations. Plenty of people had their phones out, livestreaming the bands as they played. One of the evening’s highlights was when Wicked Six played “What’s Going On,” by 4 Non Blondes, with many people coming forward to the stage yelling out the lyrics with the band. The evening ended with Casper’s Burning Bridges rendition of Journey’s hit song “Don’t Stop Believing.”

The top three bands that evening were Kim and the Cue Balls, of the Rapid City area, third place; Gerald Place, a group of college students from Laramie playing for the first time on stage together, second place; and in first place, crowd favorite Wicked Six of Rapid City.

Lead singer for Wicked Six, Tony Sloat “Plutonyum” said, “We’re ready to give a wicked time and some fun in between.” Propelling the new-age hard rock group to the top of the competition was their flamboyant stage presence, the high level and energy of musicianship and the variety of music-covering groups from Pink Floyd, Def Lepard, Motley Crew and many others.

The sponsors for the event were the Newcastle Recreation Board, Powder River Energy Foundation, First State Bank and Pinnacle Bank. It was produced by FOCUS Inc. and WCAC, with Tim Lorenz running the sound.

Tom Voss, president of the arts council, said the event was a great success. 

“We’re looking forward to having it again,” he said, “Next year, though, we’re going to be much bigger with a lot more going on.”


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