Battle of notes, many notes

BY BRIAN DAU | APRIL 24, 2009 7:26 AM

There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.

At least, that’s what the fraternity members of Phi Mu Alpha claim as they prepare for their sixth annual Battle of the Bands, to be held Saturday at the Industry, 211 Iowa Ave. Iowa City mainstays The Diplomats of Solid Sound, River and the Tributaries, and BackDrop will be on the bill, and admission will be $5.

The winning band, chosen by the audience, will receive a $1,000 grand prize, and the other two competing acts will each get $150. Phi Mu Alpha member Darren Look, the event’s production manager, said the strength of Iowa City’s music scene made it difficult to decide who the battle’s competitors would be.

“It was a really tough choice,” Look said. “We had 17 submissions, and we came down to the last four or five and argued about it for about four hours, so it was really close. We had some really great submissions.”

The event, which was held at the Union Bar in previous years, functions as a way for fraternity members to experience the process of putting together a live show, something they do a few times throughout the year. Though they aren’t required to be music majors, all of Phi Mu Alpha’s brothers perform in some form of musical ensemble.

Look said any extra proceeds from the event are used to present scholarships for the UI School of Music’s summer camp and to fund lessons for underprivileged students. Also, the fraternity is working to bring the renowned Youngblood Brass Band for a clinic with local high-school musicians, and possibly a concert.

“We want to bring [the Youngblood Brass Band] in to show high-school students that even if you play an instrument such as the trumpet or trombone, you can still play it in college, and have fun, and continue playing throughout your entire life,” said Jeff Wolf, Phi Mu Alpha’s secretary and president-elect.

Of the three competing bands, Wolf says the Diplomats of Solid Sound has the largest Iowa City fanbase, and it will likely bring in the biggest following, giving River and the Tributaries and BackDrop the chance to play to bigger crowds than normal.

“Both bands have been pretty active getting out into the music scene, but they also aren’t as well exposed as the Diplomats,” Wolf said. “That’s not to say the Diplomats is headlining — both of them do have enough of a following that they could win it. But this will give them a chance to play in front of people who would enjoy their music.”

And that seems to be what’s really important, despite the ostensible “battling” that will occur. The event is about introducing bands and fans to each other, with the added benefit of supporting the next generation of musicians.

“I’m really happy with all the choices,” Look said.

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