Los Angeles’ The Viper Room has been a lot of things; a sleazy hangout for glam rockers in the ’70s, and a jazz club for LA mobsters in the 50’s and 60’s. In the 80’s you might’ve found John Belushi gettin’ hammered, tucked into one of the booths, while C. C. DeVille sat in onstage or drowned his sorrows at the bar. It was at one time The Melody Room, then Filthy McNasty’s, All That Jazz, and The Central. Then, in the early ’90s, Johnny Depp took a stab at owning the place and renamed it The Viper Room. Its first band? Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Its first tragedy? River Phoenix, dying of an overdose just outside.

And perhaps it was Phoenix himself who sabotaged IVØRY BLACK’s set up, causing them to change their set from electric and looped to bare bones and acoustic. Maybe it was the ghost of some long forgotten mob hit that put the kibosh on their pedal board, making the night’s duo performance into a solo set. If the effort was in malice, we can call death the spirit’s only ghostly success as it may have had the opposite effect and been just what was needed to show the judges (Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale to name a couple) just how sure and solid the songwriting, singing, and stage presence is of our newest local artist made good. And make good they certainly did.

Six acts made it to the final round of the nation-wide Next2Rock competition held at The Viper Room on Tuesday. Six acts out of some 1,800 entries hailing from all around the country. All vying to become “America’s Newest Rock Star” and win a coveted record deal with Big Machine/John Varvatos Records and serious radio play on Cumulus-run radio stations from coast to coast.

1,800 acts made the attempt, and the final handful –  flown in from far and wide – didn’t make it easy. But easy isn’t what Kansas City’s IVØRY BLACK was expecting, and it’s definitely not what they’re used to. Forced out of their home at the tender age of 15, IVØRY BLACK is used to an uphill climb. And not only do years of hardship and nonstop musicianship give a solid polish to their songwriting and skills on stage, it’s grown a savvy and determination that makes an otherwise uphill battle against some very talented musicians into a walk in the park. Even with the ghosts of LA past working against them (or were they really helping?), I’m absolutely ecstatic to say IVØRY BLACK won the Next2Rock grand prize.

While its anyone’s guess as to exactly what is next for IVØRY BLACK (and opinions abound, I’m sure,) if you’re wondering mine, I think a whole hell of a lot more people are gonna have that name in their mouths, and soon. One thing is fact, though; It’s about damn time we etch another Kansas City name to the long list of LA successes.

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