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Battle of bands gives young musicians hope
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Kris and Ben Adamson play guitar and bass in the band, Seeing Daylight. "We've played anywhere from church basements, to bar basements. We just like doing it," says Adamson. "I don't think we've gotten, other than winning some battle of the bands prize money we haven't gotten paid for playing anything really." (Mpr Photo/Bob Reha)
Musicians will tell you no matter how much they rehearse the moment of truth comes when they perform in front of an audience. Now a days it's an experience many young rock musicians have to do without. Paying jobs for bands are scarce, especially for beginners. In rural areas the odds of finding a paying gig are even worse. But there is some hope. Some communities are reviving an old tradition to help young musicians get started. A Battle of the Bands contest.

Crookston, Minn. — Kris Adamson slumps in a chair at Xerio Studio. His brown shirt matches his short curly hair. But when the talk turns to his music, he leans forward and becomes animated.

There's excitement in his eyes.

He'd love to play his guitar at big festivals like WeFest or Moondance Jam one day. At the moment he's focused on the 4th annual battle of the bands in Crookston. The contest is part of the communities Ox Cart Days celebration.

The contest doesn't draw hordes of people. But it does give young musicians like Adamson a taste of playing before an audience. Hi band is called 'Seeing Daylight.'

"We've played anywhere from church basements, to bar basements. We just like doing it," says Adamson. "I don't think we've gotten, other than winning some battle of the bands prize money, we haven't gotten paid for playing anything really."

Adamson says finding a paying gig is a difficult job.

"That's why I think it's so important that they have these battle of the bands. It gives these small town bands a chance to actually go out and perform in front of people," says Adamson. "It gets their name out (there), but it is tough in this area."

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Image Kenny Holweger

The challenges facing young bands aren't news to Kenny Holweger. He knows exactly how tough it is. For the last 40 years Holweger has made his living in music. He owns a music shop in nearby Grand Forks, North Dakota. He's one of the sponsors of the Battle of the Bands. He's also a singer and songwriter. Holweger says nowadays there aren't many venues in the area willing to give a new band a chance.

"Non-paying venues, many places. A lot of people will let them come in and play for free. Paying venues is a different story," says Holweger. "Theres probably only maybe three or four that would pay them something to come."

Holweger says 40 years ago it was a different story.

"They were all paying. We rented our own halls in those days and made a lot of money."

No one is under any illusions those days will come back. Kris Adamson of Seeing Daylight doesn't expect winning the battle of the bands will catapult the group into the big time. First prize is a $200 gift certificate at a local music shoppe. The winners also receive three hours of studio time to mix a master CD. Adamson says it's a valuable prize.

"There's not a whole lot of studios around the area, especially in the smaller towns," says Adamson. "I think it's important if you get a chance to get there, you know it's nice to have a quality piece of music recorded."

Adamson says the band can use the studio time to record an audition disc. Adamson is only 20. He's been playing guitar for five years.

"We all have this pipe dream of one day making it. At least playing for a living anyway. We don't have to be making millions of dollars a year," says Adamson. "We're trying to be realistic about it and do the best we can. It's just an ongoing process. We've got to get our name out there and it's hard to do in a small town. We're going to do the best we can can, we all have the same goal in mind."

There are hundreds of bands in Minnesota like Seeing Daylight. Most will fade into obscurity. But for the half dozen groups in this years battle of the bands, winning could be the break that leads to a comfortable living playing music.

The Crookston Battle of the Bands will be Thursday, August 19th at 8 o'clock in Crookston's Central park.

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