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Local classical bands highlight this week's Friday Night Concert Series

BY EMMA McCLATCHEY | AUGUST 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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Two Iowa City-based bands will find ways to twist up classic genres for the Friday Night Concert Series’ show this week, the program’s first since the return of the University of Iowa’s students this semester.

The bands Organic Underground and the Uniphonics will perform on the Pedestrian Mall from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday.

With two successful albums and a solid fan base in the Iowa City area, this will be the third time for the Uniphonics to show off its “jazz, funk, hip-hop” style of music in the Friday series.

“It’s a great experience playing at the Friday Night Concert Series,” Uniphonics drummer Forrest Heusinkveld said. “The cool thing about Friday Night Concert Series is basically anybody can go because it doesn’t cost you anything and … it’s a good opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally be able to catch our shows to see us. It’s good for the musicians, it’s good for the people who live in the city — it’s pretty much good for everyone.”

Unlike the Uniphonics, the jazz, neo-soul, R&B band Organic Underground is new to the Friday Night Concert Series. Having been formed less than a year ago, drummer Cassius Goens said, the concert will be the first time Organic Underground will perform for the community outside of a bar or other indoor facilities.

“Playing a bigger event — especially an outdoor event where there’s more of a crowd and your music is more accessible to a lot of people — brings a more energetic dynamic to the group,” he said.

“Everybody feeds off of not only each other’s energy but the energy from the crowd. We play such a wide variety of music, everyone can sort of relate to it in some way, from young to old, from traditional jazz lovers to more funk-oriented people.”

Summer of the Arts Director Lisa Barnes said pairing newer bands with more seasoned ones for the series tends to please a range of Iowa City spectators.

“It works really well to combine and give the opportunity to two different bands,” she said. “We want bands that will appeal to the students, and Uniphonics is pretty well-known in the area, so we know that will draw students. And by putting Organic Underground before that, we have some talented musicians who haven’t played here before who are providing something a little different to sort of kick things off.”

Organic Underground bass player Blake Shaw said he looked forward to performing as Uniphonics’ opening act.

“I’m super excited [to play with Uniphonics],” he said. “I’ve been listening to them and watching them play for years, so it’s going to be a great honor to open up for them. We’re both really funky, and we’re both danceable bands, and I think that’s really important for gigs like this. There are going to be a lot of families and a lot of people out there, and we’re definitely fun to dance to.”

Heusinkveld is also excited about sharing the stage with Organic Underground on Friday night.

“I’m friends with a lot of those guys; they’ve got a really great band,” he said. “I think it’s a good mix of bands for sure. We touch on the same styles a lot.”

Although the two bands cover many of the same genres of music, members of each group said they each possess individual flare that sets them apart. While Heusinkveld said Uniphonics creates eclectic shows by incorporating hip-hop, rap, and soul into its funk and jazz performances, Shaw said Organic Underground relies on its natural inventiveness to add variety.

“It’s in our name; we’re way more organic,” he said. “You’re definitely going to hear a lot of improvisations from everyone in the group. That’s how we keep it fresh in our group — not always doing the arrangements the same way every time.”

Barnes said these unique “twists” possessed by each band make Uniphonics and Organic Underground an ideal combination for the fall semester’s first Friday Night Concert Series performance.

“I guess you can look at it in terms of two bands that will complement each other,” she said. “They may not have the same fans, but hopefully, people will enjoy the differences between the two as well.”

Although the six members of Uniphonics will perform in Iowa City several times the coming weeks —a live Iowa Public Radio recording at the Java House on Sept. 7, the UI Homecoming Parade and a Yacht Club gig on Sept. 28 — Heusinkveld said the Friday Night Concert Series is a particularly special event for both the band and the public.

“We usually only play on the Ped Mall once a year or so, so we’re definitely looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s just a good time on a Friday night, and there’s no cover charge or anything. It’s for everybody.”

As with many other local musicians, including their fellow act this Friday, the five members of Organic Underground said they see their rookie performance at the Friday series as a big step on their road to becoming an established band, both in the Iowa City community and beyond.

“We’re going to keep blazing the trail and doing what we’re doing as far as hitting the scene hard and keeping our music fresh,” Goens said. “In the future, we’re really going to try hard to do more of the concert series and events for Summer of the Arts — Jazz Fest and things such as that — and really getting our music out to the masses. The more people who hear our music, the better, and that’s really the ultimate goal. The sky’s the limit.”

Friday Night Concert Series
Who: Uniphonics, with Organic Underground
When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Pedestrian Mall
Admission: Free


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