Youthful groups compete for a shot at gigs at Summerfest, VansWarped Tour
Piet Levy | Local Beat May 2, 2013 5:19 p.m.
Members of Life in A Tree rehearse: Tyler Miller (from left, front), Molly Lutz and D.J. Underwood. In back are Jimmy Cooper and Brendan Fugate. Michael Sears - Milwaukee JS photographer
Life in a Tree has top gear, a steady catalog of covers and originals, a flashy website and a solid EP inspired by alt-rock acts like Fall Out Boy, Paramore and blink-182.
But because the band members are 14- and 15-year-old freshmen at Grafton High School, they can't play many clubs in the Milwaukee area, and "it's hard to be taken seriously" by adults, or even by their friends, said drummer Jimmy Cooper, 15.
"A lot of people don't realize how much dedication and work goes into it," added keyboardist Brendan Fugate, also 15.
But the Wisconsin School Music Association, an organization that provides statewide music programming activities and support for school music programs, understands. For the ninth year it's presenting Launchpad, a statewide band competition strictly for high schoolers who are grooming their sound in basements and garages (i.e. marching bands and wind ensembles need not apply).
Sixty bands have been split up to compete in four different battles, with judges sending three bands from each competition to the state finals June 8 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Four additional bands will also advance based on votes generated through Broadjam.com, a Madison-based music community website.
All the finalists will win a performance slot at Summerfest, with the winner receiving a second Summerfest gig, free recording time at Blast House Studios in Madison and a $5,000 Yamaha music package for their school music program. One of the finalists will also be chosen to play the Milwaukee stop of the Vans Warped Tour July 31 at the Summerfest grounds.
"That would be sick, oh, my gosh," Cooper said.
Life in a Tree is among the 15 bands performing at the Milwaukee regionals at 4 p.m. May 10 at Wauwatosa East High School, 7500 Milwaukee Ave. Most of the bands play a variation of rock, but among the competitors is blues group Relatively Blue featuring students from Delavan-Darien High School and Elkhorn Area High School, and the alternative jazz ensemble Blue Sway featuring Hartland Arrowhead High School students. Cover is $7 for adults, $6 for students and $3 for children ages 10 and younger.
"We went to the (Madison) regionals, and it was incredibly fun," said guitarist Tyler Miller, 15. "We can relate to all the bands in a way because they're younger. We're really, really psyched."
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