Gabe’s to host battle-of-the-bands competition with Summer Camp: On the Road

This Friday at Gabe’s, the Summer Camp: On The Road Tour will visit Iowa City for local artists to compete for a spot in this year’s Summer Camp Music Festival lineup.


Isabella Cervantes

University of Iowa Senior Brady “DJ VyVans” Vanlo, poses for a portrait at Elrays Live and Dive on Wednesday, February 10, 2022.

Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

Many have likely heard of Battle of the Bands, and many others attend summer music festivals every year. Summer Camp Music Festival has combined the two – and the event will be visiting Iowa City as a stop on their tour.

Summer Camp Music Festival is a three-day musical event held in May at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, Illinois. The lineup features several small and local artists, several of which are discovered through the Summer Camp: On The Road Tour competition.

Throughout the spring season, representatives from the Summer Camp: On The Road Tour hold local, battle-of-the-bands-style competitions throughout the Midwest — the audience votes on their favorite performer to be added to the lineup. On Feb. 11, the tour will stop at Gabe’s in Iowa City.

The lineup for the competition features local artists from the Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines areas, including Sweez, Brady Vanlo, Knubby, Fine By Me, Part Time Vegan, and Reggae Rapids will perform.

Ian Strasser, director of marketing for Summer Camp, said that inviting local artists into the competition was an idea to help the festival initially grow, and to shine light on the fact that most big artists start out locally.

The On The Road Tour will reach 21 midwestern cities this year. To participate in the competition, artists fill out submission forms, from which Summer Camp selects five to six artists to compete.

“Winners will get the chance to perform at a festival with 20,000 attendees from across the country and share the stage with plenty of other amazingly talented artists,” he said.

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This year, Reggae Rapids — who won the 2019 competition — have returned to the Summer Camp Battle. Band member Zakk Buch said that the band hopes to be reselected for the lineup, but they wish the best of luck to the other competitors.

The band’s music is an interesting and uncommon blend of hip-hop, new age jam, and classic rock, all with a constant presence of reggae music.

Reggae Rapids is by no means new to the music festival scene. In addition to Summer Camp, they’ve performed at festivals like Hullabaloo, 515 Alive, Cosmic Kingdom, and have even hosted their own festival, titled “Farm Fresh Reggae.” However, when they became a group six years ago, Gabe’s was where they got their start.

“[Gabe’s] is pretty much where we got our footing doing shows, it’s kind of like our home turf as far as performing,” Buch said. “Gabe’s was kind of our first place that really embraced us and we had a lot of friends that were in the scene there.”

While Reggae Rapids is no stranger to the Summer Camp Music Festival, not all of Friday’s lineup will share their history.

UI senior Brady “DJ VyVans” Vanlo started working as a DJ at age 16, and has been playing the Iowa City Bar scene throughout college. He also first started performing at Gabe’s, and more recently has played at Elray’s Live & Dive, as well as Summit.

Vanlo said that his biggest goal since getting into music is to play a music festival, which makes the On The Road Tour a great opportunity for him.

“[Winning] would really almost kind of make me think, maybe instead of just trying to keep this as like a fun hobby I like to do like maybe I could actually go somewhere with this or pursue it as a career possibly,” Vanlo said. “It kind of just opens up a lot of options for me.”