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Pasco libraries woo teens with battle of the bands

Crashing cymbals. Rock guitar. Heavy metal lyrics.

Welcome to your local library.

This week Pasco County libraries kick off the online component of their annual Rockus Maximus battle of the bands competition. Each week, the libraries will debut a new video featuring the eight competing bands participating in interviews, promoting causes and playing prerecorded gigs in the library.

Voters have until the week of the big concert showdown next month at Crews Lake Park in Shady Hills to decide which band has the best online presence.

Expiry, a pop-punk band from Lehigh Acres, traveled four hours to Hudson to film a gig at the library last month.

The band jammed out in the young adult section.

"It's kind of funny that we're allowed to play music in a library where normally people would shush you," Expiry guitarist Chase Keenan, 18, said.

Funny, but necessary, said Paul Stonebridge, 31, libraries teen services manager who helps run the competition (This year's theme: "We Ain't Dead Yet … ").

"Libraries are not going to stay alive if they're just about books," he said. "We have to stay relevant and meaningful to all age groups in order to exist."

The libraries started the battle of the bands 13 years ago in an effort to reach the local youth demographic. In 2008, they tapped into the growing social networking movement with promotions on myspace.com and youtube.com.

Stonebridge calls it "library 2.0."

An episode with a different theme will be posted online each week until the March 26 concert. Band members — mostly high school students or recent graduates — answer questions like "Who is the diva in the group?" and "If one of you had to lose an arm, who would it be and why?"

Bands promote social causes like VH1's Save the Music or antidrug groups. They participate in challenges in which members have to eat a beet juice and sardine milkshake or try to pick their friends' noses.

"They didn't have to eat it, of course," Stonebridge said.

The shows are a hit. The first year, more than 7,000 voters logged in from around the world and the concert attendance tripled to 600 spectators.

Afterward, nearly twice as many kids showed up for the library's teen programs. In the months around the competition, Stonebridge said, 12 percent more teens signed up for library cards — required for admission to the battle of the bands showdown.

Who knew rock music would get kids to the library?

"I think it's kind of capturing the youthful idea of rebellion in a way," said Aaron Meekcoms, 20, the guitar player for Clearwater classic rock band WD-HAN, which is participating in the event.

"It's like with little kids when you hide the vegetables in something delicious," Stonebridge said.

Last month, the concert's success over the years nabbed the library system the John Cotton Dana Award, one of the most coveted national awards given by the American Library Association.

Bands from outside the county were invited to participate for the first time this year. Stonebridge said the goal is to make the concert a regional, maybe even statewide or national, event.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: WD-HAN is one of the bands participating in Pasco libraries' battle of the bands. The band name was misspelled in the original version of this story.

The MySpace site for Battle of the Bands: Rockus Maximus is www.myspace.com/pascolibraries.

This year's concert will be from 6 to 11 p.m. March 26 at Crews Lake Park, 16739 Crews Lake Drive in Shady Hills. Admission is free, but you need a library card to get in.

Online videos of the bands will be posted on the MySpace page weekly starting this week. Visitors can vote once every day during the competition on which band has the best online presence.



IF YOU GO

Get your card first

This year's concert will be from 6 to 11 p.m. March 26 at Crews Lake Park, 16739 Crews Lake Drive in Shady Hills. Admission is free, but you need a library card to get in.

Online videos of the bands will be posted on the MySpace page weekly starting this week. Visitors may vote once every day during the competition on which band has the best online presence.

MySpace site for Battle of the Bands: Rockus Maximus is myspace.com/

pascolibraries

Pasco libraries woo teens with battle of the bands 02/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2010 10:48am]
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