Move over American Idol; the Midwest music battle has begun.
Battlerusa, an 18-city "party tour" kicked off in Fort Collins last night at the Aggie Theatre, where six bands battled to become part of the lineup for Wakarusa music and camping festival, which will take place June 8, 9 and 10.
Local bands 3 Peas, Listen, Wasabi, WhiteWater Ramble, Prism and Holy Moses and the High Rollers all were chosen to share the spotlight for the Battlerusa competition, offering an unprecedented chance to see some of the greatest and funkiest bands in the area all in one night.
"Its kind of nerve wracking actually," said 3 Peas bassist, Joe Prinzivalli before the competition. While wishing the best to all the other bands, most of who are friends and often share stages with one another, he noted that the competition is none-the-less a factor for the musicians. "It's not supposed to be so competitive, but you have to step up your 'A' game."
Battlerusa is an ingenious innovation that will provide one talented local band from eighteen cities around the country a chance to hit the festival circuit – something that allows many bands to break out into a wider audience. For each city, a Battlerusa winner is declared and offered a spot in the Wakarusa Festival, a popular camping and music gathering that takes place annually in Lawrence, Kan.
On Feb. 9 and 10, a final battle will take place Lawrence before the Wakarusa festival, where bands will compete at the Bottleneck for a chance to win a track on the 2006 Wakarusa compilation album.
Started in 2004, Wakarusa stretches over four days and five stages, with estimates of more than 15,000 music lovers in attendance. For the Fort Collins winner of Battlerusa, such exposure has the potential to open lots of doors and take a Fort Collins sound to an even broader fan base.
For many of the bands, the Battlerusa show is one more exciting opportunity in a time of big achievements.
For 3 Peas, which formed a few years ago after bass player Prinzivalli, drummer Evan Carroll and keyboard player Vincent Denis began jamming together at local house parties, the competition is another highlight in a time of lots of exciting moves.
"We've been working to finish an album. We've come up with a lot of new songs and refined old songs," Carroll said of the bands activities. On the heels of a successful show at the Aggie opening for the nationally known Medeski Martin and Wood, the trio plans to release their album in the spring.
A cool mix of jazz and funk influences mixed with elements of hip hop and reggae, 3 Peas has developed a considerable Colorado fan base over the last few years and hopes to continue to grow.
"We're looking for an opportunity to play more festivals in the summer," notes Carroll, who hopes that Battlerusa exposure might just be a springboard into that realm.
Also hoping to generate broader attention during a productive time, Holy Moses and the High Rollers likewise has visions of Wakarusa.
Participating in festivals such as the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Minnesota in the summer of 2005, the band took the stage at a particularly productive time.
"We've got a lot of new stuff coming up," noted Nick Boeka who plays keyboards and provides vocals for the band. "We're branching out now and hitting the mountain towns. We have 20 gigs in the next three months."
Playing in places such as Durango, Gunnison and Telluride, the band is hoping to expand their recognition in the state in coming months.
Formed six years ago in Pennsylvania, HMHR (as they are fondly known to their fans) moved out to Colorado a little more than two years ago to pursue a more music-friendly atmosphere. With their eclectic style that Boeka describes as "multi-genre," the band finds solid grooves in their mix of jazz, funk, reggae, blues, folk and Latin for a danceable and enjoyable mix.
With both bands performing their unique sounds on stage along with the other great sounds from the other local bands, the competition is shaping up to be particularly tough. Indeed, as the members of 3 Peas noted, Fort Collins is predicted to be perhaps the key city with the most intriguing competition.
"It's good because Battlerusa has all the Fort Collins bands in one locale," said Boeka of the show. "But it's bad because we're all friends."
The Battlerusa tour stops tonight in Denver at Cervante's.
For more information on Battlerusa, see www.battlerusa.com
For information on 3 Peas, visit their website at www.3peasfunk.com
For information on Holy Moses and the High Rollers, visit their website at www.hmhr.net