Battle of Bands in tune with the times | AspenTimes.com
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Battle of Bands in tune with the times

BASALT Last week, Chris “Biff” Phillips was covering the Aspen Business Center in posters in preparation for the annual Basalt Battle of the Bands, when he was approached by an unfamiliar face. The stranger offered Phillips a Fender Stratocaster guitar – the highly sought-after American-made model – to offer as a prize at this year’s event.It’s an indication of how far the Battle of the Bands has come. The ninth annual edition, set for Saturday, May 19, in Basalt’s Lions Park, will feature 30 acts on two stages over 10 hours. The Battle has become something of a festival for Basalt, with a silent auction, and food and crafts booths livening up the town. Onstage, Woody Creeker John Oates, half of the pop duo Hall & Oates, will make an appearance, as will local acts Louie & the Lizards and Jeannie Walla.The Battle is a fundraiser for the National Jam Foundation, founded by Phillips and fellow local-musician Dan Sadowsky. The nonprofit organization’s purpose is to help equip and fund the music departments of local schools. To date, more than $23,000 has been donated to that cause; student musicians participating in the Battle compete for funds to be given to their schools’ music programs. In addition to the aforementioned Strat, Oates has donated a Takamine guitar, signed by him and bandmate Daryl Hall, to be raffled off, and the local company Michael Jones Vintage Guitars has pledged two drum kits, three Fender guitar amplifiers and four Ibanez guitars to be donated to local schools. The winner of the Best High School Garage Band title will get eight hours of recording time in Jamie Rosenberg’s new state-of-the-art Great Divide Studios and a video produced by Access Roaring Fork.Another way of measuring the impact of the Battle of the Bands is in the advancing skills of the musicians. Jeff Stevens, a participant in the first event, is now a member of the Los Angeles rap-rock band Testing Tomorrow. Two musicians went on to study at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. Basalt singer-guitarist Annie Schwener and Woody Creek singer-guitarist Obadiah Jones, both still playing in the Battle, have become performers on local stages.A final way of gauging the status of the event is the crowd it has attracted. Several years ago, the bassist from the popular Canadian band Barenaked Ladies stopped in to check out the music. He was sufficiently impressed with one act – Pixie Sticks, featuring the guitar students of the late Tracy McLain – that he invited the members to attend a Barenaked Ladies gig in Denver and hang out backstage.Making the rounds of the rumor mill this year is that blues-rock singer Joe Cocker is planning to drive over from his home near Crawford to survey the rising talent.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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