Even after the Goddamn Draculas were announced as the winner of the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, it was hard to tell which band was champion on the crowded, champagne-soaked stage at T.T. the Bear’s Place.
No one immediately stepped forward to accept the tackily decorated crown. Await Rescue frontman John Cutulle sat with a grin at the drum stool, where he’d played rimshots to accent the praise heaped on organizer Anngelle Wood. The Draculas’ singer/guitarist Chris Duggan was dancing with friends at the back of the stage. And when his bandmate J.R. Roach finally donned the crown as if by default, fellow drummer Lauren “LoWreck” Recchia playfully jumped up to wrap her legs around him in a celebratory hug. Only she was a member of runner-up Petty Morals, whose singer Tai Heatley also was dancing at the edge of the stage.
Sure, the Goddamn Draculas got the nod from Friday’s judges for their tight, boisterous set of jet-turbine rock, capped by Duggan climbing on someone’s shoulders to part the crowd and hop onto the bar, where he had liquor poured into his mouth. But Petty Morals still stood out as a six-woman juggernaut, casually mashing synth-rock and garage-punk into infectious pop with joyful pluck, setting the night’s tone by sharing “friendship” badges with their competitors. They also gave a shout-out to Feints singer Amy Douglas, who pulled out of the Rumble semi-finals on doctor’s orders to rest her voice. And while the gimmick-free Await Rescue felt short in Friday’s field, the band roared with grungy muscle and steely melodicism.
If there’s a Rumble curse (the perception that most Rumble winners fare worse than the losers), the Draculas represent as an aptly named outfit. The real winners of the Rumble were all 24 bands who were tapped to share their music and sweat before enthusiastic fans old and new, culminating in an advance sellout for the finals. How fitting, in turn, that Friday’s guest act during the ballot-counting wasn’t an out-of-town headliner but the Information, a 2004 Rumble semi-finalist reunited for the occasion. If you look at Boston rock history over the past 35 years, you can use the Rumble as a timeline to plot many of the city’s great bands, ones that realized it’s not who wins or loses, but who enjoys the game.