Strung Like a Horse was the crowd's and judges' favorite Thursday night at Rhythm & Brews during the finals of the Road to Nightfall contest. The band will be the second local band ever to headline the popular concert series. (Photo: Staff)

Local garage-grass favorites Strung Like a Horse have won the 2012 Road to Nightfall competition and will be the featured headliner this summer on Friday, Aug. 3.

Four local bands competed in the finals Thursday night at Rhythm & Brews in front of fans and a panel of three judges who ranked each performance on originality, quality of performance, preparedness and crowd reaction.

One of the judges, Carla Pritchard, executive director of Chattanooga Presents, which produces Nightfall, said marks were high for each of the bands, which performed individual 25-minute sets.

"Anyone who was there would be impressed with the talent we have in Chattanooga. You could tell they really stepped up their performances last night. It was just a really good presentation all the way around," Pritchard said.

The two other judges were Richard Winham, a local radio host on WUTC-FM, and Barret Sellars, a Nashville-based talent agent from William Morris.

After two and a half hours of back-to-back performances, Strung Like a Horse was the standout.

"Strung Like a Horse had that electric energy that the crowd responds to in a huge way. They are so much fun to watch, almost creating individual characters on stage," Pritchard said.

Bringing in a professional talent agent like Sellars as a judge for the contest helps to add another layer of possibility for the bands beyond the local headlining opportunity with Nightfall, according to Pritchard.

"It can never hurt for these bands to be heard by someone from the William Morris agency, one of the biggest agencies in the country. You never know where it might lead," she said.

Each of the three other finalists—Ryan Oyer Band, Amber Fults and the Ambivalent Lovers, and the Long Gone Darlings—will be guaranteed an opening slot during the 2012 Nightfall schedule.