Jerry Benson from the Discovery Channel's "Moonshiners" reality TV show will be among panel of celebrity judges for Hope's first-ever Battle of the Bands presented by Main Street of Hope on Saturday July 16 on the Hope Town Square. Photo submitted.
Jerry Benson from the Discovery Channel's "Moonshiners" reality TV show will be among panel of celebrity judges for Hope's first-ever Battle of the Bands presented by Main Street of Hope on Saturday July 16 on the Hope Town Square. Photo submitted.

Local bands are set to do battle for the coveted title of best band and the opportunity to play Hope’s 54th Annual Heritage Days this fall in Hope’s first-ever Battle of the Bands at 6 p.m. Saturday on the Hope Town Square.

Presented by Main Street of Hope, this event has been a long time coming, says Matt Lee, executive director of Main Street of Hope.

As part of his wider vision to help make Hope a more well-known tourist destination, Lee says the event will tie Main Street of Hope and Hope Heritage Days together, because “in the end we are all doing our part to help Hope and to help it grow.” 

Three bands, The Fusion and Smokin Jokers both based out of Columbus and Hope’s own Caddo Parish, are undoubtedly fine-tuning their sound and set list in preparation for their 45-minute sets this weekend.

The bands will be judged for a variety of things in a diverse range of categories, Lee says, including stage presence, overall sound, song selection and fan/crowd reaction and participation.

“I have high hopes that the bands will bring their best and their fans to Hope to enjoy the surroundings of our small town,” Lee says.

Judging these three dynamic bands will be the Night Owl Country Band and reality TV star Jerry Benson from the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners.”

This may be Benson’s first band battle, but it isn’t his first trip to Hope. And he couldn’t be more stoked.

In a recent telephone interview, Benson couldn’t say enough about Hope, its friendly folks, and his excitement about returning. When the invitation to be a guest judge was offered, Benson says he couldn’t say no. After all, it was Hope, he says.

“I thought it would be something very different and new from what I do,” he says.

Benson describes his own musical tastes as gravitating to more of the country-rock genre but says that he loves all types of music because when it comes down to it, it’s about the song.

“I’m more about the rhythm of the songs,” he says. “Like, is it an original song? I listen to how the words lead the song.”

Like the Night Owl guys, Benson says he will be listening closely to see what these bands bring to the stage Saturday. In addition to the traditional parameters for judging, like stage presence, song choice, and energy, there’s something that is an absolute must. Feeling. Passion.

“I love how people take music and make it their own,” Benson says. “You can tell when it is heartfelt and means something to people.”

Each band will play a 45-minute set Saturday beginning at 6 p.m., Lee says. And the winning band will play a paid slot at Hope Heritage Days this fall, he adds.

Benson says he is looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones this weekend and invites everyone who can to come out and show the bands some love.

“Come out and see us,” Benson says. “We will all have a good time, for sure!”

** WATCH this space in the coming days for profiles of each of the bands competing this weekend. **