CWMA 2011: King Niko, Cory Mon & The Starlight Gospel & The Lindsay Heath Orchestra 

Highlights of 25 local bands, nine live showcases, three finalists and one winner: King Niko.

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Below, we highlight all 25 bands that took part and help make the SLC scene a great one.

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Throw any sort of sports ball at the Whittaker brothers, and they’ll curl in the fetal position, or so they say. The womb they were birthed from was a musical one, for sure. And that’s fine by us. These nonsensical, rambling minstrels—read their mythological MySpace bio—shine on our town with high-energy, instrumental, tropicali-jazz-rock that’ll warm even the coldest winter night. Which might make you wonder, how do they keep winding up in your bed? Oh, just snuggle up and enjoy. (Austen Diamond)

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Bronco began as a three-piece about five years ago, before multiple lineup changes forced founder Tyler Anderson to take two steps forward, one step back, until we stopped counting. Of course, with each new incarnation, it was hard not to admire their honest, tenacious approach to sound and, well, life, which sometimes just completely blows. No strangers to hardship and heartache, last spring they mourned the passing of drummer Mike Kubcza. Now a five-piece, Bronco seems to have finally hit their collective stride. If they stumble, they’ll roll with it. This is, after all, a band that once fielded song requests from members of a controversial polygamous sect during a Brown Bag concert in downtown Salt Lake City, rocking thousands of FLDS in the process. (Jamie Gadette)

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Indie pop-rockers Cavedoll have had a long and illustrious career, and like wine, aging has just made them better with the passing time. In fact, in addition to recording and playing gigs, leader Camden Chamberlain and Co. can also be found working the Web for all its worth to spread the Cavedoll word. There’s something slightly eccentric about their sound, but their dance beats are contagious and effective at filling a dance floor. They proclaimed the end of the band during their showcase, but we're already hoping for a reunion. (Julianna Clay)

In the past year, the Continentals have been busy releasing two records: Rhino and, more recently, In a Circle With Our Closest Friends. Across both records, the Continentals find near-moody perfection on songs like “Abandon Your Homes,” “Nero,” “Avalanche at Your Feet,” “Lighthouse,” “Ready,” and “Vitamins.” What’s most impressive about the Continentals’ work is actually what you don’t hear—the spaces that they’ve left unfilled. And when most young musicians want to fill all possible holes, this sense of reserve is really saying something. It’s a particularly impressive feat when you factor in the amount of instrumentation that the Continentals bring to the recording studio, from brass to xylophone and more, which somehow never feels extraneous or boastful. (David Morrissey)

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In 2010, Fox Van Cleef labored to redefine what it means to be involved with the Utah music community. Playing nearly every venue in the state from St. George to Logan, the five-piece psychedelic rockers from Ogden made a name for themselves with live-music fans long before their debut release Cigarettes, Terrorism, Etc. in 2009. They followed that with their 2010 EP, Pleasure Junkies, which garnered them radio airplay, several festival gigs and a West Coast tour. (Gavin Sheehan)

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In 2009, The Future of the Ghost guitarist/singer Will Sartain told City Weekly, “We just wanna have a band that changes the world. That’s all.” Minor ambitions, to say the least, and they’re still pacing onward toward new sonic conquests, which includes their third album of pop-punk gold slated for release this year. Badass chick-drummer Cathy Foy leads the rhythm section for a live band not to be missed at any of their numerous gigs around town. (Austen Diamond)

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These boys may be from the flip side of the Wasatch Front (Heber), and the lead singer may look like a baby-faced Bret Michaels, but don’t let that fool you: They can rock it with the best of their local counterparts. The band recently won Velour’s Winter Battle of the Bands, and they just released their self-titled debut album. Their sound is old-school rock & roll with a Southern twist, and listening to them can make you feel like you stepped into a time machine. Not only has Holy Water Buffalo revived vintage psychedelic-rock, but they have also added some of their own modern mojo. Yee-haw! (Julianna Clay)

Striving to be one of the hardest-hitting and most hearing-impairing metal acts in town, the group solidified their efforts by doing three simple things: Nailing down their sound, playing select shows and recording the finest metal album they could. Electric Church easily could be argued to be the best local metal album of 2010. And under the grit and grime, the members actually give a damn about their fans. (Gavin Sheehan)

Old-school thrash has returned in a big, bad way over the past few years, and no band embodies the spirit of the scene more than local thrashers Killbot. The band is composed of long-haired dudes with names like Smelly and Deavy Metal who permanently sport tight, ripped jeans and seem to be perpetually wasted—but in a totally good way. These are the kinds of guys who wear their own band’s T-shirts, either out of a sense of pride or because it was the cleanest article of clothing readily available. When Killbot takes the stage, expect to see long hair swinging over sharply angled guitars, and blistering solos that stop just long enough for the guitarists to take a swig off the nearest alcoholic beverage. (Ricky Vigil)

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