Local bands fight for the prize at Hangar

By Chase Myers | @chasemyers_DE | Daily Egyptian

Although artists like Jimi Hendrix and Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t need the popularity boost of playing a large festival, other bands like Santana saw this as an opportunity to project their sound to a diverse audience.

Venues such as Hangar 9 have noticed success in local talent given the right motivation and opportunity. A friendly competition between musical acts for a spot in a music festival may be just enough incentive to spark .

Summer Camp Music Festival, held in Chillicothe, is approaching its 14th year and has grown from more than 1,000 attendees to nearly 15,000 in 2014.


As a supporter of Illinois musicians, Summer Camp has allowed local venues to hold a “battle of the bands” in order to fill the festival’s line-up slots with local talent.

Hangar 9 will host their Summer Camp On the Road Competition on Friday and will feature three bands. The winner of the competition, decided by Hangar concertgoers, will win a spot on the Summer Camp line-up.

Old Toby, a local bluegrass band, will be competing and giving the audience an hour of folk flavor.

The band attributes Hangar 9’s open mic night and local focus to helping them expand their audience in Carbondale.

“As far as the people there, Hangar as a business and an entity has really helped us out,” banjo player Robert Schmidt said. “They’re willing to let people get their Led out.”

The band has a lot of older traditional covers people may not recognize, mixed with bluegrass adaptations of popular songs. For the competition, Old Toby’s set will consist of almost entirely original songs, mandolin player Dakota Yeck-Petty said.

“This is Old Toby. This is what we’ve written,” he said. “This is exactly what we do. This isn’t something we’ve heard from someone else.”

Bluegrass has become a prominent genre in Carbondale and has the ability to transcend generations, Schmidt said, which may work in Old Toby’s favor.

“It’s really like your grandpa could like bluegrass or your best friend could like bluegrass,” Yeck-Petty said. “It goes well with different populations.”

Along with bluegrass, there is an ever-growing jam band influence in Carbondale with bands like Candlefish, another participant in the competition.

Even though the band has only been together since February 2014, Candlefish has already become a staple in the scene, with shows lined up as far as Chicago and Cincinnati.

The band timed their sets during practice to prepare for the abnormal one-hour time constraint the competition presents.

“It’s a shorter set than we normally play,” bassist Dave Palm said. “We have a set list written out and we’re just in the process of playing through it as many times as we can.”

Although a shorter set is different for the band, the task of creating a one-hour show has not been, keys player Chad Weber said.

“In our heads we can figure out how certain songs go together, then we will just figure it out through improv,” he said.

The full sound Candlefish produces may give them an edge over the competition, Weber said.

“It’s a bluegrass band and a hip-hop band where they are more mellow,” Weber said. “Here, we are running all kinds of electronics and keyboards and even hand percussion, which adds to the sound.”

While Old Toby and Candlefish are bands with set line-ups, the third competitor, Little Pizza has a more relaxed set, with different musicians making guest appearances at different performances.

Little Pizza began as a solo loop project from Ryne “Little Pizza” Teston when he was a student at SIU in 2008. He utilizes a looping technique in which he records a track on stage and adds onto it as he performs.

To prepare for the competition, Little Pizza has been adding new members, including a new bassist from St. Louis, Teston said.

“That’s one of the ways we refresh our band–not even getting new songs sometimes–just getting new members,” he said.

Members of competing bands agree this battle is much more competitive than it was last year.

“The friends that would come to see us would also go to a Candlefish show or a Little Pizza show and a lot of it is the same way for them too,” Sam Schall, guitarist for Old Toby, said.

Carbondale’s close-knit music community has brought all three competitors close over the years, but in this case, the competitive side comes out.

“We’re not really competitive, but it is a competitive time,” Teston said. “It’s almost like we’re joking, but everyone’s guard is kind of up.”