By Zak HansenLas Cruces Bulletin
New Mexico State University Special Events and the American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS) are holding a contest, giving one lucky – and talented – local band the chance to share the stage with 1970s and ’80s Chicago hardrock legends Styx.
Styx, best known for chart-topping hits in the ’70s (“Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” “Babe” and “Renegade”), ’80s (“The Best of Times,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Mr. Roboto”) and into the early 1990s (“Show Me the Way”), rose from a basement in the suburbs of Chicago to become one of the biggest arena rock groups, with four consecutive albums that reached multi-platinum success and 16 top-40 singles in the U.S. alone. In recent years, Styx has made two Super Bowl appearances and toured with other rockin’ notables including Def Leppard, Journey, Boston, Bad Company and REO Speedwagon, among many others.
Now, a group from the Mesilla Valley has a chance to rank among those legends.
After an open call for submissions from musical acts from Las Cruces and the surrounding areas, a panel of judges was selected, including: Lorena Sanchez, editor, Pulse Magazine; Robert Palacios, general manager, KRUX 91.5 FM; KC Counts, Bravo Mic Communications; Bobby Torres, director of public relations, The Dickerson Group; and (yours truly) Zak Hansen, Arts & Entertainment editor, Las Cruces Bulletin.
Accepting entries through today, Friday, Jan. 3, judges met and determined criteria for judging online submissions. Those criteria include sound (clear, concise, pleasing to theear), creativity (overall arrangement, lyrics and sound), market appeal (entertaining, appealing to a diverse crowd), originality and, finally, how good a “fit” the band would be with Styx.
Demo judging will be completed by Wednesday, Jan. 8, at which time three semifinalists will be selected. Acts chosen will then move on to the final round: a live performance set to take place at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at Hurricane Alley, 1490 Missouri Ave.
During that performance, bands will again be judged on a set of agreed-upon criteria, which includes stage presence, live sound, originality and, perhaps most important of all, crowd response. The band that really “wows” the judges and the crowd will go on to play and opening set for the ’70s and ’80s powerhouse.
Submissions received as of Dec. 30, 2013, including a wide variety of styles and sounds from acts including Blues Messiah, Nosh, Reality Lies, The Mother Truckers, Play Me: The Music of Neil Diamond, Taking Over, Decade of the Dead Arcade, Acceptable Losses, Alexx, Bad Brand of Justice, Power Trio Legends, The Players, Flat Blak, Worm-Hole, Distorted Illusions, The Adarna, Beneath the Waves, Amber St. Yves and The Strange – with more trickling in each day.
“An Evening with Styx” is presented by NMSU Special Events and ACTS, a national, nonprofit organization that sponsors performances that expose college musicians to a national audience, often pairing them with internationally known, stadium-selling artists, and gives those who wish to work “behind the scenes” the chance to do so in a professional setting.
Formerly known as the All-American Collegiate Talent Search, the group was founded in 1978, under Executive DirectorBarbara “Mother” Hubbard, who oversees all aspects of the organization. The program started strong, when the first national competition was held at Southwest Missouri State University as the Bob Hope search for the Tops in Collegiate Talent. The competition was broadcast on PBS, an early precursor to the “Star Search” and “American Idol” of the following years.
Hubbard held various positions during her career at NMSU, including program adviser at the then-new Pan American Center in 1966, then student activities advisor in 1970, when she began bringing events and concerts to the venue.
She was named director of special events in 1977, a position she held until her “retirement” in 1996. Using the innumerable contacts she’s made throughout her career, combined with her passion for the encouragement of young talent, Hubbard has been able to give inestimable opportunity to up-and-coming artists.
For Hubbard, “An Evening with Styx” is yet another continuation of her life’s work, to give young talent a shot at a national audience.
“If I find a young person with talent,” she said, “I’m going to put them in front of a big group. If they play country, I put them in front of the Bellamy Brothers. If it’s a rock group, I’ll put them in front of Styx.
“We want to help kids with talent. That’s the essence of the ACTS program.”
Decade of the Dead Arcade and 'Play Me' The Music of Neil Diamond are two of more than 20 artists competing for a slot opening for legendary rockers Styx Wednesday, Jan. 15.
The Mother Truckers are also vying for a spot opening for Styx.