Never mind “American Idol.” Kiwanis Park will be rocking from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 18, when the Village of Brookfield hosts its third annual Battle of the Bands at Kiwanis Park, at the corner of Arden and Brookfield avenues.
In addition to a first prize that includes recording studio time at Vital Music recording in Brookfield, the top two finishers in this year’s battle will play at the Brookfield July 4 picnic in Kiwanis Park. In addition, the top one or two bands could win a bid to the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association Battle of the Bands state finals at the Illinois State Fair later this summer.
The event is a showcase for Brookfield-area high school students who come together to face off against fellow musicians in front of a panel of three judges. The competition is sponsored by the village’s Recreation Department with sound equipment provided by A Sound Education, the Brookfield-based music business.
A Sound Education offers music lessons as well as instrument and equipment rental. Owner Mike Doerr, also a Brookfield special events commissioner, serves as emcee.
Special Events Commission member Sara Rerucha said the competition was introduced to offer something to Brookfield high school students at a time when numerous other programs were being offered to young children and senior citizens.
“We wanted to have an event that would showcase young people in a positive light,” she said.
Besides introducing the acts, Doerr also participated in the selection process for participating bands.
“We listen to all the bands and decide who’s in and who’s out,” he said. “We look at how the musicians play together and how they sound as a band.”
More groups will participate in this year’s competition than in past years, with 10 bands getting 25 minutes in front of three judges.
Rerucha said this will create an opportunity to feature more local talent, and noted that young musicians often are still learning and developing a repertoire of songs.
“It will make the competition stronger this year,” she said. “Everyone’s going out with their A-list.”
Bands participating this year include Blood Runner, Don’t Fear The Inevitable, Live This Down, Munich, My Alumni, Short Stop From Tokyo, Tough Luck, Unusable Signal, Walsher Clemons and Yesterday’s Tomorrow.
“All the bands we’ve had have been talented,” Doerr said. “We thought it would be a cooler event if we allowed more bands and shortened their time.”
Doerr noted that the event has attracted an eclectic mix of sounds, including ska and reggae as well as blues, alongside rock and roll and heavy metal.
“We get a lot of different sounds,” he said. “We’ve found out that there are a lot of kids out there playing different styles of music.”
Rovner said with the event in its third year, “we have seemed to have an easier time getting bands. I’m really excited that the community seems to be behind this.”
This will be musician Mike Licari’s third year participating in the event. Licari has played different instruments with different bands and is no stranger to some of the challenges musicians face in live performance.
His former band, One Cord Short, competed in the first contest.
“Our bassist didn’t show up,” Licari remembered.
The band’s regular bass player was out of town, so the group recruited a substitute, and “he had to work.”
The group didn’t win that year, but took top honors the following year, when “everyone was there and we played good.”
Licari played drums in One Cord Short, but plays bass guitar in another band, My Alumni, which also features One Chord Short’s Michael Griffin on lead guitar. Licari said he was drafted because “their bassist went to college. I had taught myself guitar, and bass is easier than guitar.”
Doerr said games of musical chairs are common among musical groups, as part of the natural evolution of a band.
Doerr said when he first started out, his best friend played bass guitar in a band, and he started learning to play drums when the group was short a drummer. Doerr shared a few words of advice for young musicians.
“The first thing is to practice,” he said, and “get a band started.” Besides musical ability, Doerr said people skills play a key role in success.
“You have to be open to new ideas,” he remarked. “You need good group skills and you’ve got to be able to work with different musicians. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but you need to accept different things and learn different things.”