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Battle of the Bands Judges Orchestrate a Winning Solution

Top-scoring band will open for main acts at DarienFest Sept. 8.

Battles don’t usually end well for the participants – but a war waged Saturday in Darien resulted in a positive outcome for all involved.

Judges for the inaugural DarienFest Battle of the Bands found a peaceful solution to a confounding conflict – how to choose a winner among three talented young bands whose musical styles couldn’t have been more diverse.

The bands, who took the stage at Q Billiards & Sports Bar Saturday, were vying for a chance to perform on the main stage at DarienFest on Saturday, Sept. 8.

The bands

Just a couple of years ago, the members of “Below Zero” were middle schoolers at Our Lady of Peace in Darien. On Saturday, they performed like seasoned musicians, confidently covering songs by groups such as All American Rejects, Jimmy Eat World and Pink.

The Downers Grove/Westmont high schoolers in “Supersonic Sled” belted out tunes by hard rockers such as Pat Benatar, AC/DC  and Led Zeppelin, taking the audience, as lead singer Alayne May joked, “from the Highway to Hell to the Stairway to Heaven.”

And Woodridge’s own “Jet Black Comedy” brought crowd-pleasing swagger to their brand of vintage rock, wailing on guitars to Howlin’ Wolf and ZZ Top songs and displaying their considerable talents on covers of tunes made famous by Pink Floyd, Bob Seger and The Band.

The judges

When Darien Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Clare Bongiovanni began organizing the Battle of the Bands event, she was determined to bring in a group of judges whose backgrounds in the music business would qualify them for the tough job of choosing a winning band to perform at DarienFest.

Since 2001, judge Dave Mikulskis has been the lead singer for the popular Chicago-area band “Hi Infidelity,” winning numerous fan favorite awards for his renditions of 80s tunes by Journey, REO, Bon Jovi, Foreigner and more.

Judge Andrew Salgado of Darien performs his original country-rock tunes around the area and around the country -- and is currently honing his talents by working with rock legend Jim Peterik (founder of “Ides of March” and “Survivor,” and co-writer of the “Rocky” theme song, “Eye of the Tiger”).

Judge Frank Pappalardo of Downers Grove has more than 25 years of experience in the audio industry and for the past 12 years, has been responsible for recording and mixing more than 250 prime-time concert programs for the critically acclaimed PBS series, “Soundstage.” Pappalardo’s  latest project, the “Beach Boys 50 Anniversary” CD is currently climbing the Billboard and Amazon charts.

The outcome of the battle

The Battle of the Bands judges were tasked with scoring the groups on stage presence and preparedness, vocal ability, musicianship and overall entertainment value.

Event emcee Annivar Salgado, an award-winning lyricist, Latin percussionist and former special events/documentary producer for ABC TV in Chicago, said the judges had a “really tough time” choosing a winner among three bands with such varied ages (the contest was open to ages 12-28) and musical styles.

 “The scores were really close,” Salgado said.

So, after the bands "battled" on Saturday, the judges worked out a treaty of sorts – a plan that would allow all three groups to perform at DarienFest in September.

Bongiovanni said “Jet Black Comedy,” the winning band that garnered the highest score from the judges, will open for main-stage performer Andrew Salgado on Saturday, Sept. 8.  “Below Zero” and “Supersonic Sled” will perform at the fest either Saturday or Sunday, at a time yet to be announced, she added.

“For the first time hosting the event, I was very pleased with the outcome and honored to have such wonderful talent part of the 25th annual DarienFest,” said Bongiovanni.  “I was very pleased with the judges’ decision -- the musicians were all outstanding.”

Judge Frank Pappalardo echoed Bongiovanni’s sentiments.

“All the bands were very impressive,” said Pappalardo. “We look forward to seeing all of them at DarienFest.”

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