Traz may be known more for its drag shows than its live music, but that could change tonight with the Battleground battle of the bands competition.
“You don’t have to wear high heels if you’re a guy to go to Traz,” said Jordan McCoy, organizer for Sound Core Music & Video, the event’s host.
She said while Traz is known to a lot of people as a gay bar, it has an excellent setup for live music and people’s preconceptions should not keep them away.
The nine-week tournament begins tonight with three bands: The Pirouettes, Perpetual Days and Skee. Five more preliminary rounds will be held, each on Thursday, and the finals are scheduled for May 3.
Bands will be judged by a three-person panel on originality, musicianship, appearance and crowd participation, McCoy said.
The winning band will receive $1,000 worth of equipment from Sound Core and a personalized merchandise package form Attitude Designs. There are also prizes for second and third place, McCoy said.
McCoy said Sound Core used to host the event but hasn’t done so in seven years.
She said a main reason for holding the competition at Traz was the extensive sound and lighting system that Sound Core recently installed there.
Despite the quality of its stage, though, she said people still don’t associate the club with live music.
“It really throws people when you tell them it’s at Traz,” she said. “I think Traz is a really cool venue, but no one goes to see live music.”
Traz DJ Kent Keen said the venue booked some bands last year and is one of the best places for live music in Carbondale. He said he’s glad to have the battle of the bands back.
As for its reputation as a gay bar, Keen said the crowd is actually quite diverse and people don’t seem to be too hung up on that.
“People kind of go wherever they want to now,” he said.
Brandon Karras, bassist for Skee, said he was intrigued by the competition when he was told about Traz’s sound system and stage, so the bar’s reputation was not a concern.
“If it is a really good venue, why not?” he said.
Karras said the turnout should be good if it is advertised correctly, and it will probably be more people looking for music than the regular crowd.
Keen said since Traz usually isn’t open Thursdays, the crowd will probably consist mostly of people following the bands and fewer regulars.
Scott Schuerman, vocalist and keyboardist for Perpetual Days, said while Traz’s reputation as a gay bar seemed to be on everyone’s mind, it wasn’t a big deal in the end. He said they’re happy to get a show regardless of what the venue is, and they’re hoping the competition can be a launch pad for more performances.
Nick Nylen, of The Pirouettes, said there was no hesitation on their part on the basis that the event was at Traz, and bandmate Angie Fisher said it should bring a new crowd into the club.
Fisher said she has a lot of friends coming to show support for their performance, which will be their first as a full band.
As for the competition itself, Nylen said the winning or not isn’t important; they’re taking part just to play.
Taking part in the competition was actually the catalyst for expanding into a four-piece, he said. Previously, he and Fisher had been performing as a duo, he said.
Though they don’t have much experience as a four-piece yet, Fisher said it’s actually comforting, as she gets stage fright and having two more people on stage takes some of the pressure off.
Karras said he also plays bass for Kid Tiger, and the relatively new band Skee does not have as much experience since it has played only three shows so far. However, he said they’re used to playing for a solid two hours, so condensing that into a 30-minute set could result in a solid performance.
Schuerman said Perpetual Days’ eclectic mix of styles, a result of the diverse musical backgrounds that the members come from, and the energy of their performance could give them an edge.
He said he and guitarist Chad Weber have been playing together for a couple years, and they just recently crystalized into a full band with drums, bass and trumpet.
He said they’ve played a few shows in Carbondale and Herrin but they don’t have any connections who can get them booked, so they’re ready for the competition to help them take the next step.