‘Battle of the Bars’ raises funds for JP Music Fest

What does JP do to raise funds for the JP Music Festival (JPMF)? Host a battle of the bands, of course.

The June 10 event at the Midway Café at 3496 Washington St. may have the makings of an annual tradition.

Organizer Rick Berlin, local longtime musician and JPMF organizer, told the Gazette the idea was simple: JP has a lot of bars. Those bars have employees and patrons, many of whom are talented, musically. Berlin is himself part of the staff at Doyle’s next door on Washington Street.

Why not organize those talented barflies into one-night-bands for a Battle of the Bars?

“It felt to me, perhaps more than any other fundraising event besides the festival itself, [like] the true heart of why JP is such a great, crazy community of friends and bars,” he said.

Some 15 bands entered the arena: the stage at the Midway Café at 3496 Washington St. on June 10. They each played up to three songs—originals, covers, solo, a cappella, instrumental, were all accepted. The winner, the Fireside Tavern, won a spot to perform at the JPFM in September.

“It was a smash,” Berlin said. “The feeling in the room was electric, funny, supportive, full of heart, competitive and joyous. Though it was ultimately a tie between the Midway and the Fireside—we flipped a coin [to decide who would win the JPMF slot], I’d say every act was terrific. Truly.”

“Celebrity” judges included Patti Hudson from Monumental Cupcakes, Brian McCaffrety from Teenage Heart Records, Dan Cardinal from Dimension Sound, Mark Katzoff—an attorney whom Berlin describes as “karaoke samurai”—and Tess Pope, a classical musician and also from Bitch Kitty Recording Studio.

“I think [the event was] so rich with energy and artistry, and the whole all-inclusive JP vibe infused the Midway Café that night,” Pope told the Gazette. “I was impressed by how many really good bands, well rehearsed and all, there were. That tells you something about the kind of people we have in our community.”

Which is not to say there weren’t concerns.

“Initially, the enthusiasm was electric and funny and super competitive. ‘We will totally win this thing,’ was the phrase that rang across the bars in the ’hood,” Berlin said. “Alongside that was the expected raised eyebrows of, ‘No one is less reliable, more undisciplined, than people drunk in bars, bartenders and musicians. They will not show up for this.”

Berlin said, ultimately, both were right.

“Early enthusiasm faded and the reality of rehearsal, planning, getting people from each bar to play weighed in and I began to sweat,” he said. “And then, lo and behold, particularly in the final few days, people got their [stuff] together and showed up.”

And it went so well that Berlin said he fully expects JP’s Battle of the Bars to become a part of the JPMF calendar next year.

“Yet one more oddball tradition,” he said.

The JPMF’s website is jpmusicfestival.com.

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