When a city earns the reputation of Live Music Capital of the World, it retains that title by making sure that its resident musicians can live healthy, productive lives. That’s the goal of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), and it’s found some community allies to help in its effort to provide local musicians with health insurance and basic healthcare.
Friday, April 26 will see the return of HAAM’s Corporate Battle of the Bands at Antone’s for its sixth annual competition to determine which local companies boast the most hard rocking, guitar shredding in-house bands. Employees from H-E-B, Cirrus Logic and others will take their shot at rock ‘n roll glory — and help out Austin’s full-time musicians at the same time.
HAAM Executive Director Carolyn Schwarz discussed how the idea of the Corporate Battle of the Bands came about while a committee of business people was working on HAAM Benefit Day, the organization’s signature fall event.
Schwarz says, “A couple of the guys on our committee … played in a band together, and they came to me and said ‘We have this idea. There are a lot of guys like us who have bands on the side but work in business jobs by day.’ We were just sitting around and I was like, ‘This is brilliant.’”
In Austin, Schwarz sees music as a passion that inhabits a wide range of people in the community, whether they’re trying to make it a full-time profession or sitting in a corporate office but practicing on the weekends with their friends. And the Battle of the Bands not only brings these musicians together, but provides a more entertaining way for businesses to raise funds for benefits.
“So many different times, companies will sponsor a table for you to go to a fundraising lunch… but this is actually getting their employees involved in something,” says Schwarz, “Their coworkers get to come cheer them on and their bosses get to see another side of them… It’s a team building experience.”
One of those employees hoping to make his coworkers and bosses proud is Jay Pate, a grocery manager for H-E-B and the vocals/bass for his company band, Knuckle Sammich. Pate and his crew are ready to help out other musicians while taking a shot at the title.
“We’re excited about every element of it. We’re always ready to help a cause if we can, because we don’t get that many opportunities to do so. At the same time we’re very excited about being able to play for some of our coworkers. Some of them we’ve been working with for years now and we’ve been talking about the band, but there’s never been a good opportunity to go and play for a good number of folks that are going to be off at the same time.”
Now that Knuckle Sammich is performing for an event with a corporate sponsorship, more music fans from the office can find the time to show their support. Pate says that “The first day we found out we were going to be part of it, we started putting out the word and everybody started putting in their request for time off so that they could attend.”
Not only will Pate and all of his fellow corporate musicians get to act like rockstars for a day, but the grand prize winners receive recording time at Bismeaux Studio for an extra shot at living the life of made musicians. The grand prize, as well as “best original” and “best cover” bands, are chosen by a panel of celebrity judges, including Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s, rock ‘n’ roll hall of famer Ian McLagan and KVUE anchor Quita Culpepper.
The fans can also choose their own favorite by placing money donations in a box for any band, with the winning “fan favorite” band receiving a shot at an indoor gig at Stubb’s.
But at the end of the day, says Schwarz, the corporate bands are even happier to lend a hand. “The idea that they’re giving back to our musicians who are doing it full-time and are trying to make a living … that really tips the scales for them in terms of like ‘We’re having fun with this, and we’re helping.’ We’re helping this really important group of people who brings in nearly $2 billion to our economy … who culturally bring so much to our lives here.”
If you want to support the people that turned Austin into the destination for live music, Jay Pate tells you what you need to do.
“Come out and see us and throw a fist in the air.”