Band Battle Saturday in Carbondale |

Band Battle Saturday in Carbondale

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy the Dasaro familyAspenite Sophie Dasaro is among 20 acts performing at Band Battle '09 on Saturday at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

CARBONDALE ” Steve Marker started playing guitar at the age of 11, and it became a passion.

“That was my main thing,” Marker said. Music wasn’t only a childhood pursuit; Marker went on to co-found Garbage, a Wisconsin-based rock band that was a critical and commercial success through the ’90s and into the ’00s.

Playing guitar in front of an audience, though, came somewhat late for Marker. Not until he was in high school, in Mamaroneck, N.Y., did he perform in front of other people, and get a real sense of how his sound landed on the ears of listeners.

“It made a huge difference in terms of excitement,” said Marker of playing at high school dances. “It makes you see there’s a place you can take it, where it means more to you, and means something to other people. It’s the motivation to practice, take more lessons, take it more seriously.”

So when Jazz Aspen Snowmass asked Marker to help the organization take over the Basalt Battle of the Bands, he jumped at the chance to give local kids a chance to get their music in front of live audiences.

“I played in 10 million high school, middle school bands,” said the 50-year-old Marker, a Carbondale resident who has lived in the valley for three years. “But we never had a battle. Wish we did.

“You can practice all you want on your own, but having an audience ” it can kick you in the butt to step up your game a little.”

Marker will be on board on as Jazz Aspen takes the local Battle of the Bands ” founded by valley musicians Biff Phillips and Dan Sadowsky a decade ago ” and turns it into the Band Battle. The event, set for Saturday, May 2, moves from Basalt to Carbondale, and moves indoors, to Roaring Fork High School. The two stages of the past have been cut down to one.

But the heart of the event is intact ” young musicians demonstrating their chops in front of a live audience. Twenty acts, from solo singer-songwriters to school-sanctioned jazz ensembles and DIY garage bands, will take turns playing 10-minute sets from noon-5 p.m. Three local pros ” Joe Kelly, Louie Girardot and David Bluefield ” will crown winners in five categories: best band and outstanding musician in both high school and middle school divisions, and best original song. Prizes include T-shirts, trophies and certificates; the best original song winner will be given recording time with Marker.

And perhaps the most enticing prize: more opportunities to play in front of audiences. Winners will appear on the Cooper Avenue stage during Jazz Aspen’s June Festival, and on the Village Stage at the Labor Day Festival.

Joe Lang, Jazz Aspen’s director, said that the Basalt Battle of the Bands had run its course. The founders were exhausted from building an event that had become essentially a festival, with vendors and appearances by prominent adult musicians.

“We looked at it as an opportunity to have a performance activity as the core of our education program,” said Lang, noting that Jazz Aspen has for years sponsored local student bands, and provided instruments and instructors for school music programs. “It felt like the perfect event to complement what we were already doing in the schools.”

Lang added that this year’s program was streamlined in the interest of keeping the battle going. He can envision returning the event to the outdoors, surrounding it with a festival atmosphere. He is already looking at adding more prizes, in the form of performance opportunities ” at Steve’s Guitars and at the Carbondale Mountain Fair.