Four Eagle County bands prepare to kick off live music season with a Battle of the Bands
The town of Avon is hosting its very first Battle of the Bands on June 14, kicking off the season of AvonLIVE! shows at the Avon Performance Pavilion at Nottingham Park. At the show, local bands The Evolution, Trees Don’t Move, Al Maul and Primal J. and the Neanderthals will battle it out for the title of best band in Eagle County—and bragging rights, of course.
AvonLIVE!, a favorite summertime concert series among locals, started drawing Eagle County residents and visitors to Nottingham Park for live music in 2015. Since, AvonLIVE! has become a summer staple for many and this year’s 11 scheduled AvonLIVE! events begin with the Battle of the Bands on June 14.
“I think the community is going to be pretty excited about who they’re in to see on stage this coming summer,” Avon Cultural, Arts and Special Events Manager Danita Dempsey said.
To gather acts for Battle of the Bands, Dempsey said the town sent out a mid-March call for local talent. Out of the nine complete applications that were submitted, the top four bands were selected.
The Evolution is a seven-piece world fusion band founded by Mauricio Cadavid—lead guitarist and vocalist—and his wife, Dina Cadavid—vocalist, percussionist and ukulele player. The Evolution also includes vocalist Camille Sawtelle, bassist and vocalist Dave Donahue, horn player Connor Williams, keyboardist and piano player Jake Lidard and drummer Ben Fresse. Though, during the Battle of the Bands performance, Larry Dutmer will be sitting in on drums for The Evolution.
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Mauricio Cadavid said the Battle of the Bands will not be The Evolution’s first time playing on the Avon Performance Pavillion stage. As a nine-piece band, The Evolution had performed at a few SunsetLIVE! Shows there. Cadavid said the band is looking forward to playing there again soon.
“It’s a large enough stage for our giant band,” Cadavid said.
The Evolution draws from all around the world and fuses yacht rock, reggae, Latin and eighties vibes for a genre-spanning sound. Sawtelle said that in an area as diverse as Eagle County, there’s something for everyone in The Evolution’s music.
“It’s such an international town,” Sawtelle said. “Each song will hit on at least one demographic of people that’s in the audience—we found that the older crowd loves us.”
Cadavid said that The Evolution’s genre-spanning music lends itself to being generation-spanning as well. At The Evolution shows around town, be it at the EagleVail Pavilion or at Craftsman Brew Co., he said kids and “big kids” are always spotted dancing and having fun.
“That’s the whole point of the band is to bring joy to people. We’re here to bring upbeat, happy dance music.” Cadavid said. “We’re essentially a family band, so when we play for families, that’s like I think what our biggest demographic is,” Cadavid said.
Mauricio and Dina Cadavid’s young daughter even joins the stage with The Evolution sometimes, impressing the audience with her vocals.
Those fun vibes are exactly what Cadavid said The Evolution hopes to bring to the Avon Performance Pavilion stage during the Battle of the Bands.
“If we bring that edge that none of the other competitors are bringing and that’s what sets us apart, great,” Cadavid said. “But the end resolve is really just to have a good time.”
Trees Don’t Move
Trees Don’t Move is another band that will be taking to the stage at Nottingham Park for the Battle of the Bands. With three band members graduating from high school this month, guitarist Christian Dent said Trees Don’t Move is ready to graduate from the high school band realm and enter into a more professional arena.
Alongside Dent, bassist Micah Robinson, vocalist Ben Sutter, drummer Jax Leija and guitarist Cooper Filmore makeup Trees Don’t Move. The band’s current formation has been playing together since December of 2019 and three of the members have played together for over five years. Their music incorporates pop punk, metal, classic rock, jazz, emo and more. “We really have just about everything under the alternative music umbrella,” he said. In their latest EP, “Better Days,” Trees Don’t Move fuses melancholy and ska music for a sound the band calls “melon-ska-ly.”
In their time performing, Trees Don’t Move have played Eagle Flight Days and the 2022 Eagle Block Party as well as other local venues. Leija said the band applied for Battle of the Bands because they’ve never seen one in the valley before and couldn’t resist the opportunity to play for the community alongside other local acts.
“My first thought was, you know, School of Rock’s final scene where they’re going to play with Jack Black,” Leija said.
“Being able to participate in something like this is so cool,” Sutter said. “Especially with people who are actually established musicians and do this professionally.”
Al Maul is an Americana songwriter who will also be hitting the Avon Performance Pavilion stage on June 14. In his songwriting, Maul said he expresses himself, his view of the world and also includes influences from history of the American West—especially in his home bases of Montana and Vail. Notably, Maul said he harps on the Irish music influences that came through the Butte Mines in Montana throughout the 1900s.
Blending folk, blues and country, Maul’s last album, “The Wandering,” is the namesake of the band that accompanies Maul. The band is often comprised of “whoever wanders in,” Maul said. For the Battle of the Bands event, Maul said a percussionist is still needed for his set.
“I think Avon and the Vail Valley is in this really awesome pocket of the music scene where, you know, the tourism industry allows us to be here and play tons of gigs every year,” Maul said.
Maul said he’s never played the Avon Performance Pavilion stage before, and looks forward to performing at a beautiful outdoor venue with a full band—”It’s going to be a blast.”
Like other bands playing the event, Maul said to him, Battle of the Bands isn’t about the competition.
“In my eyes, it’s not a competition at all,” Maul said. “It’s just the day that we get to go play some music and do it on a really cool stage in a really cool place with our buddies and just be part of the scene.”
With his recent album out and another in the works, Maul said his new music will make an appearance in his Battle of the Bands set. While he’s eager to share this music with the community, making the music in itself is what Maul said is truly meaningful to him.
Primal J and the Neanderthals
Finally, local band Primal J and the Neanderthals will be competing in Avon’s inaugural Battle of the Bands.
Raised right here in Eagle County, Primal J and the Neanderthals bassist Dan Renner said he grew up witnessing the evolution of live music locally.
“I used to see bands play and wait for the day that I could do it,” Renner said. “Now I’m doing it.”
Primal J and the Neanderthals played the Avon Performance Pavilion last year during an AvonLIVE! show, opening for Hell’s Belles. Alongside their original music and reggae covers, Primal J and the Neanderthals also covers classic rock as well, like Neil Young, Tom Petty, and even Tracy Chapman.
“When we’re feeling crazy, we’ll throw a couple of country songs in there too,” Renner said.
Renner said Primal J and the Neanderthals are looking forward to sharing the stage with other great local acts. He explained that in the valley, it can be hard to secure good gigs, and Primal J and the Neanderthals have already been wanting to play a show with Trees Don’t Move.
“They’re high schoolers and they’re kicking butt,” Renner said.
Playing alongside other talent, especially local talent, is something Primal J and the Neanderthals always enjoy doing at the Primal Fest, a rock and punk-centric festival that brings Colorado bands together for summer shows since 2018.
This year, Primal J and the Neanderthals booked over 30 bands to share the stage with them and play for the community during the festival.
Like the acts brought in for Primal fest, Primal J and the Neanderthals level out the valley’s music scene, Renner explained.
“Our original stuff’s rock, you know, it’s a little edgier than normal stuff around—and I think the valley needs that because we’re almost forested in this jam band and bluegrass thing, which is great,” Renner said. “But you know, you need a variety in life and that’s kind of what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to play other stuff that isn’t so overplayed around here.”
Like at any other show, Primal J and the Neanderthals hope to mix things up and get the audience up, dancing and having a good time.
On June 14, after the four bands will play in 35-minute sets—with about a 10-minute period between acts—the audience will have the power in deciding the winner via QR code voting.
“Hopefully all that technology will go smoothly, and we’ll be able to announce at the end of all the performances who gets those bragging rights,” Dempsey said. “We wanted to keep that momentum of that excitement in the audience and be able to announce that night.”
Doors for Battle of the Bands will open at 5:30, and the music starts at 6 p.m.