Student organization hosts Battle of the Bands

Take 24 local and regional bands and pit them against each other for a chance to win an appearance at Summerfest and things could heat up. But these artists are in it for the exposure and the experience – as well as the grand prize.

The first annual Battle of the Bands competition, hosted by Students in Free Enterprise, consists of three rounds that will culminate in the partial shutdown of Water Street on May 3. The winners of that show will perform on Leinenkugel’s stage at Summerfest in Milwaukee.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” said senior Cory Bosben, whose band, Chester Bay, is competing on Saturday night, the second round of the competition. “(Summerfest) is one of the biggest festivals in the United States.”

The first round of the competition was based on online voting. Forty bands entered the preliminary round of the competition and the top 24 bands moved onto the second round, which begins this weekend. To raise votes, the bands encouraged its fans to visit the Web site and show their support.

Bosben said Chester Bay raised awareness about the online voting using MySpace and word-of-mouth. Chester Bay consists of four UW-Eau Claire students from Rochester, Minn., and Green Bay – hence the name – whose music Bosben describes as “acoustic and pop rock.”

The genres of music represented among the top 24 bands are unknown at this point, said senior Jennifer Bailey, assistant project manager, since the bands won’t reveal that information until they play their first show.

But regardless of the type of music, she said the objective is to “create that festive, family-type environment,” which means no obscene lyrics or actions during performances.

Going along with the family-oriented atmosphere, Bailey said one of the committee’s goals is to create a community event that “isn’t always about the drinking.”

And the fact that the event will shut down Water Street makes it even more exciting, Bailey said, adding that securing that location was one of the group’s biggest hurdles.

“It makes the environment even more than what we were hoping for,” she said.

Senior Liz Huber, the advertising and sponsorship coordinator for the committee, said in the second round, a panel of three judges will evaluate the bands on five criteria – musicianship/talent, originality, stage presence, professionalism and overall entertainment value. Seven judges will determine the final winner, she added.

“It’s going to be a great event,” she said.

SIFE hopes to profit at least $2,000 from the event, Huber said, which it will use for educating high school students in the Chippewa Valley about business.

Huber said the committee also secured sponsorships for the event, including a wide range of downtown businesses and bars.

Bailey said SIFE took on this ambitious project in hopes of establishing an annual event.

“Right now we are just paving the way,” she said.

Bailey said they didn’t gain momentum right away, just because the project was so big and many people didn’t think students could pull it off.

But, “we’re all very determined people,” Bailey said. “I really believe (SIFE’s Battle of the Bands) will find its successors (to organize it) and it will continue.”