Final Camp Euforia Battle of Bands this Saturday

BY RYAN FOSMARK | JUNE 11, 2009 7:26 AM

“What we’re really trying to do is get the funk out to people so they don’t forget what it’s about,” said Ben Soltau, the bassist for local band Big Funk Guarantee.

“Getting the funk out” ? that could be the credo of Camp Euforia. Whether bands play rock or blues or experimental electronica, they all will kick out the jams in pursuit of a Camp Euforia performance.

On Saturday night, the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., will host the second and final Camp Euforia Battle of the Bands. In addition to the Big Funk Guarantee, local acts Filling Space and Nifty Mountain PowWow will compete for an hour-long slot at this year’s Camp Euforia. The skirmish kicks off at 9 p.m.; admission is $5.

There are ever-increasing amounts of pressure and excitement in the bands, because Camp Euforia has grown from a small fan-appreciation party to a full-blown, two-day sonic boom that showcases both local and national talent.

AJ Wessling of Five in a Hand, the local rock/blues/experimental band that emerged the victor in this year’s first Battle (which occurred on May 14), notes the tense significance of the contest as opposed to the laid-back vibe of the usual Iowa City music scene.

“You try to act like it’s not a big deal, but you want to win, you know?” he said.

The May 14 battle drew nearly a full house, which is a necessity for the competing bands.

“[The winner is] whoever brings the biggest crowd and gets the extra people who aren’t there to vote for anybody,” Wessling said.

Promotion and popularity, it seems, make half the battle the as band with the most votes this Saturday will win the Camp Euforia slot almost without question. However, there is a safeguard in the voting to prevent one-man accordion-for-dummies polka acts that happen to own a social networking website from gaining entry to the Camp Euforia Main Stage, said Pete McCarthy, the manager and booking agent at the Yacht Club.

“Essentially, you write down the band you want to win, and you put it in the jar by the door guy,” he said. “There are two secret judges who are there if the voting is really close. If it is, the judges pick the band they think would be the best fit for Camp Euforia.”

Bassist Greg Winkle of power trio Filling Space said his band has a monumental set in the works for the event.

“There’s definitely more pressure because we really want to get into playing at the festival,” he said. “We’re going to try to get a set list in which all the songs go into each other so we could play the whole hour without having to stop.”

The Big Funk Guarantee’s Soltau, on the other hand, is banking on the size of his eight- to 12-member ensemble to make for a great show.

“I’m really glad we’re headlining the event because we’re such a large band, and it would be a very good ending to the show,” he said. “I want people to go there and have a good time, regardless of if we win.”

Don’t get him wrong — Big Funk Guarantee has its eye on the prize. With only three shows in the band’s year-long career, a spot on the Camp Euforia set would be quite an accomplishment.

“It’s a really great chance for us as a new band to get that kind of exposure because Camp Euforia draws from all over eastern Iowa and beyond,” Soltau said. “It’s probably one of the best chances to get people out there to see you, and it’s a great environment where people are really, really excited about music … When people come down to Camp Euforia, they come down to see great music all weekend long. They’re really receptive to what we do, and they’re really receptive to all the music. It’s perfect for any band.”

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