Kevin Cody

Battle of the Bands goes virtual at Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair

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FIKA, featuring singer Olivia van Doornewaard, Slater Heidrich on bass and Dax Corcoran on drums,will be among the bands competing in this year’s virtual Battle of the Bands at MBFair.org/Bands. Other bands include The Illusions, Scream Revolution, Surge, Youthanize, and the Meerkats. Photo by Kat Monk

by Kimberly Dester

The  48th annual Hometown Fair will take place online October 3 and 4, hosting arts and crafts vendors, local businesses, and a Battle of the Bands for high school-aged bands.

Slater Heidrich, a Mira Costa High School senior and bassist for FIKA, said the chance to compete in this year’s Battle of the Bands gave him a reason to smile and pick up the bass during the COVID-19 blues.

“I would practice every now and then, but I didn’t really have the full urge,” Monk said.

Heidrich’s band was set to play at the End Epilepsy Walk at the Rose Bowl in March as well as at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in April. The back-to-back cancellations of the band’s shows left Monk without inspiration.

His mother Kat said she saw a light come back on when her son began practicing for Battle of the Bands. “I saw a total switch in him,” she said. “He was a little down and this brought him back to life.”

FIKA, a bona fide garage band, has Slater on bass; Olivia van Doornewaard, who is a senior at Vistamar High School, on lead vocals; Dax Corcoran, a junior at Peninsula High School, on drums; guest drummer Sophia Papouchado; and guest guitarist Salem Darling. The band’s name embodies the Southern California spirit — good vibes.

“It’s similar to good vibes when you think about it,” said Kat. “‘Fika’ is like take a break (in Swedish), have a cup of coffee.” 

The difficulty of an online music competition, however, is garnering an audience and fan base.

“It’s really hard getting people to vote every day for six weeks,” said Kat. “It’s a lot of hassling people — vote, vote, vote! I feel like we’re harassing people.”

“I don’t want to be known in school as that kid who bugged everyone to go vote for his band,” said Heidrich.

Hometown Fair Board president Joe Marcy said getting creative to find a silver lining during the seemingly never-ending rollercoaster of 2020 was difficult. But an opening presented itself to make this year’s Battle of the Bands stand out.

“We determined there was an opportunity to let the public make the decision of who should win the prize this year,” said Macy. The winner of the competition will headline next year’s Hometown Fair.

Six bands made it to the final stage of the competition: FIKA, The Illusions, Scream Revolution, Surge, Youthanize, and the Meerkats. Voting is available on the Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair’s website on the Battle of the Bands page. The public can vote once per day until voting closes on October 4 at 7 p.m.

Tyler Lee, a junior at Redondo Union High School and lead guitarist of The Illusions, said the silver lining for musicians has been the free time to work on their craft. “I think we all enjoyed still being able to play music during these times. Personally, I took it as a chance to get better at the songs we usually play, which was easier to do because there was less going on,” Lee said in a statement. “Battle of the Bands also gave us something to work towards.”

Macy said seeing the bands promote themselves on social media has been a pleasure.

“I love seeing the bands really active on their social media channels, not only to support community tradition, but promote their music,” said Macy. “We’re doing everything in our power to give them exposure and an opportunity to sharpen their marketing skills.”

The competition’s virtual voting system has been successful — with nearly 10,000 votes being cast in just a few weeks. Macy said the web traffic for MBFair.org this month is triple that of September 2019.

Although the virtual submissions and online voting have worked out well, Macy said he is doubtful a virtual voting component will remain in place for future Battle of the Bands competitions.

“There’s nothing like being in the immersive experience of seeing these bands perform on stage,” Macy said. “But virtual could play a role in the auditioning process in the future.”

The winner of the competition will be announced immediately after voting closes on October 4 at 7 p.m. Until then, fans can continue to vote daily for their favorite local band at MBFair.org/Bands. ER 

 

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