The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa bands battle it out for a spot in upcoming annual music festival

Six of Iowa’s most popular local bands played at Gabe’s on Saturday night, with a coveted prize for the winner.
Emma Calabro
The lead guitarist for 28 Days Later interacts with crowd during Battle of the Bands at Gabe’s in Iowa City on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

Dozens of fans packed the top floor of Gabe’s on Saturday to watch six popular Iowa City bands duke it out for a chance to play at Solshine, an annual music and arts festival in Illinois in May. This year, the festival will be headlined by artists such as deadmau5, John Summit, and Goose, among others.

Of all the local concerts in Iowa City on any given weekend, they rarely present high stakes for the performing bands.

When asked what makes the Iowa City music scene special, Gabe’s bartender Denny Richards put it in simple terms: “Variety.” That variety was showcased throughout the night as the sound jumped from alternative rock to funk metal to reggae — and everything in between.

Additionally, the variety in the room was not limited to the sounds of the night; while most of Gabe’s shows are open to all ages, it’s still rare to see anyone under college age at a show.

Standing in the center of the crowd was 8-year-old Shaun Gonzalez. While he stood barely over the hip level of most of the concertgoers, he said he didn’t feel unusual in that environment.

“My grandma — before she passed away — and I used to have sleepovers at her house and there was a bunch of old people around there and I was the only kid there,” Shaun said. “So, yeah, it doesn’t really feel that weird.”

First to the stage was blues rock trio Kobe Williams and the Fantasy. Their fuzzy, crunchy rock sound was straight out of the 1960s and perfectly warmed up the crowd for what was sure to be a long night of music.

Next was indie rockers 28 Days Later. Their impressive connection with the crowd and incredibly full and catchy sound made it clear that selecting just one of these bands was not going to be an easy choice.

Third was the alternative rock band Worst Impressions. The group hit the ground running, opening their set with their fiery original song “Something New.” They kept the crowd entranced throughout their set with their powerful riffs and alluring melodies.

Donned in aquatic-themed costumes, Fishbait went next. Their strange and hilarious stage presence fit seamlessly with their thunderous, groovy funk metal, wowing the crowd and inciting the night’s first mosh pit.

Before the show, Fishbait talked about what it would mean to win the competition. “It’d be fu**ing insane,” said bassist JJ Razor. “Playing at a festival would be an insane experience. That would be the most freaked out I would ever be before going on stage. It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s exhilarating.”

After what had been a long night of blaring rock music, Reggae Rapids filled the air with smoke and good vibrations. Complete with classic reggae songs and an abundance of saxophone solos, Reggae Rapids provided a much-needed cooldown while still maintaining the warm energy of the night.

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Closing out the night was Dolliver, which wrapped things up beautifully with their smooth indie rock sound.

At the end of the night, the venue announced that fans had selected Worst Impressions as the battle’s victors. Guitarist Colton Schwartz was thunderstruck when he heard the news.

“I heard a rumor, someone was like ‘There’s a good chance we won’ and I was like ‘Wait, are you serious?’” he said.

The 2023 Solstice competition was the site of the very first Worst Impressions show. Now, just a year later, they emerged from the competition as champions and will head to Illinois in May to play the festival.

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About the Contributor
Evan Weidl
Evan Weidl, Opinions Editor
Evan Weidl is a senior majoring in political science. He previously worked in the opinions section as a columnist.