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Local bands battle, measure for measure, for spot in summer festival

BY NICK FETTY | FEBRUARY 26, 2009 1:33 PM

American music festivals have grown immensely in popularity over the last couple decades, with new ones popping up in every part of the country each year. On Friday, five Iowa City bands will compete to perform at one of the larger Midwestern summer festivals, the Summer Camp Festival in Chillicothe, Ill.

The Summer Camp: On the Road Tour is traveling through the Heartland, stopping to hold shows in hopes of recruiting the Midwest’s best bands. On Friday, the tour will stop at the Yacht Club, 13. S. Linn St. The battle of the bands will start at 8 p.m.; tickets are $5.

Dead Larry, Five in a Hand, Insectiod, Johnny on Point, and the Uniphonics will play the show with hopes of winning a spot in the festival, which will be held May 22-24.

“Each band has a pretty good crowd,” said Yacht Club owner Scott Kading. “So they all have a chance to win this, which is not always the case in battles.”

The Summer Camp Festival started in 2001 with 15 bands performing during a two-day period — today, the festival features more than 60 bands over three days.

Moe, a progressive-rock band, has played at summer camp every year since it began. Other national acts, such as Umphrey’s McGee and Keller Williams, are also regulars. For this year’s show, the headliners include those three groups as well as Les Claypool, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, and Girl Talk.

During last year’s competition, the Uniphonics filled in for Mr. Baber’s Neighbors at the last minute and managed to win a spot at the festival. The Diplomats of Solid Sound, Mint Wad Willy, and the Mad Monks were a few of the groups the Uniphonics beat out.

“It was cool for us, because we had the very first slot of the first day of the two-day battle,” Uniphonics drummer Forrest Heusinkveld said. “We ended up winning it, so that was really sweet.”

The Uniphonics formed in May 2007, and it has been an active part of the Iowa City music scene with its original blend of jazz, funk and hip-hop. In 2008, the group won the Phi Mu Alpha Battle of the Bands at the Union in Iowa City. Last summer, the quintet played at Camp Euforia in Lone Tree, and it will play there again this summer.

Last year, the battle lasted two days and included bands from across the state, as opposed to just Iowa City. Today, the Summer Camp: On the Road Tour is in Des Moines where Mooseknuckle, Mr. Baber’s Neighbors, Neumoniker, and Maximilian Eubank will compete.

It is important to know that the Yacht Club is not involved in the voting process, Kading said.
“We’re very neutral,” he said. “We want them all to do well.”


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