Iowa native returns to headline Dance Marathon


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Brian Kistler and Ted Wendler met during their childhood summers on the beaches of Lake Michigan. Later, they both served as counselors at Camp Wapsie — a youth development program.

And when Kistler became the entertainment director for the 20th Dance Marathon — a group of students raising money to support children with cancer — he knew a band that would be well-suited for headlining the Big Event.

Mansions on the Moon, the band Wendler plays guitar for, is based in California, but this weekend, the band will fly from Hollywood into Iowa’s gloomy weather, where thousands of University of Iowa students will dance for 24 hours straight.

Wendler, also the lead singer for the group, hails from Cedar Rapids. Other members include Jeff Maccora on bass, Ben Hazlegrove on the keyboard, and Lane Shaw on drums.

The band will storm the stage at 1 a.m. Saturday after several other local bands and dance groups, including the UI Break Dancers, entertain the organization.

“They play at the peak of the energy, as it’s getting started,” Kistler said. “They’ll bring a lot of energy … everyone’s fired up because they’ve been there four or five hours. They have a prime spot in the event.”

“We try to get dance music,” Kistler said. “They do a lot of dance-style music for their live shows. They’re pretty fitting for our event.”

The band has had success since its inception in 2011.

The group’s memorable moments include performances at the SnowBall Music and the South by Southwest festivals and the phone call from their agent asking if the band had any interest in opening for Whiz Khalifa and Mac Miller.

The members did.

But the band is looking forward to playing a new crowd — thousands of UI students in lime green. When Wendler pitched the idea to his bandmates, there was no hesitation.

“I immediately said, ‘If we can make this work, let’s do it,’ ” Maccora said.

Maccora’s family is no stranger to cancer — his uncle continues to fight his battle.

Maccora said pediatric cancer is an injustice on its own.

“I don’t think any kid should have to go through anything like that,” he said. “They should just enjoy being a kid.”

While the band is only performing at the Big Event before returning to California, the band’s guitarist said it’s an opportunity for him to reconnect with his home state.

“This is an awesome opportunity to see family and friends, and we’re glad to help out in any way,” Wendler said.

The band members said a highlight for them will be to see the students dancing for the kids.

“It’s amazing how the human spirit can react to a disease such as that,” Maccora said.

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