by Carey Murphy & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he final round of the Final Four had plenty of prizes to give out. There were three audience awards, including the Grand Prize (recording time at Delve Studios in Seattle and $500 for travel), and two prizes awarded by the judges. The top Judges' Choice conferred a Seattle gig opening for Poorsport and $200 in travel money.

Amputated Limbs could have made so much more of their time. There were instrumental versions of The Bad News Bears and James Bond theme songs. There was a Modest Mouse cover. The gin and tonic joke. But not much that let Amputated Limbs stand out. When the band showcased its screamcore originals, it seemed a bit much for the sedate crowd. And that's too bad. The closer's spot intimidated them as much as the opener's spot did for Lead Creak Derby.

Lead Creek Derby [Third Place] took the stage first, and Idaho was definitely in the house. Lots of cheers as the band played its way through a technically solid set, the highlight being the extended guitar solo-ing. But for all of the guitarist's dazzling feats of fretboard proficiency, the entire band looked more bored than elated. All of the songs had basically the same feel, and the crowd was more entertained by the beach balls bouncing through the pit than any of the music coming from the stage. Being the first performers couldn't have been easy. The band didn't capitalize on the opportunity to set the standard for the rest of the evening -- they let the slot intimidate them.

BEAF [Second Place] had the crowd behind them. T-shirts emblazoned with "I [heart] BEAF" were everywhere, particularly on their enamored female fans. More bass-heavy and riff-dependent than any of the other performers, BEAF used the soft-loud-soft formula to drive along the set, and the pogo-ing masses that screamed along. The highlight from the band was the cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," and that's both good and bad. Good, insofar as they showed a whimsical contrast to their own sound. Bad, insofar as the irony card is seldom played by a really confident band.

The Electrostatics [Judges' Second-Place Choice] know that part of the ska formula demands goofy dancing. And while goofy dancing doesn't always equal stage presence, it works for these boys who've done their homework well (see the Mighty Mighty BossTones for the template). Say what you will about ska, it's always a crowd-pleaser. The band seemed to know that its limitations can be partly overcome by enthusiasm.

Big Wang Theory [Grand Prize and Judges' Choice] can do no wrong. And they got stones. Any band opening with the Who's "Pinball Wizard" knows they're on their game. And things only got better from that point forward. Playing loose and sloppy, the band was energetic, animated and confident. They are the real deal. And in true rock star fashion, they literally had to be pulled from the stage to accommodate the evening's timetable.

Book-Talk Teasers

Wed., Aug. 4, 1-2 p.m. and Wed., Aug. 18, 1-2 p.m.
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