Charlie Milo wore a loud polyester dress straight from the 1970s on Saturday night and was glad he did. That yellow, blue, red and flowered outfit was about the only shockvalue sign of teenage rebellion at the Battle of the Bands in Colorado Springs, he said.
Milo stuck out like a neon sign amid the hundreds of T-shirt and jeans-wearing high schoolers who gathered to scope out 10 bands. “It’s mellow in Colorado Springs,” said Milo, the bass player for Voodoo Blue’s Diner, a high school garage band. His friend and bandmate Amon Copeland, a guitarist with the group, explained that piercings, death metal and the other obvious signs of battle between teens and older generations just aren’t hip in this quiet city. “Nobody around here pushes the envelope,” he offered, while sporting shorts, a belly-baring shirt and a warm winter stocking cap. The Battle of the Bands is an attempt to draw out and nurture the teenage scene in Colorado Springs, said Lou Mellini, general manager of two Colorado Springs radio stations, KILO 94.3 & The Eagle 103.9. Mellini’s stations joined with the Colorado Springs Conservatory and a variety of local businesses to back the event, which Mellini said could drive the creation of a local music scene reminiscent of 1990s Seattle, when the “grunge rock” movement emerged. “When you hear some of these bands, noting they are in high school, you’ll see what talent is,” Mellini said. The bands did issue some solid guitar work, pounding bass rhythms and lengthy drum solos. Linda Weise, general director of the conservatory, also made sure the teenagers got exposed to culture beyond the rock ’n’ roll scene. “We slipped an opera in on them,” she said. “That’s my way of heightening their awareness of what’s out there.” Even without the opera, the Battle of the Bands was an event even the older crowd could relate to. Scores of parents in the audience held up video cameras to record their children’s time on stage. One high school rocker, guitarist Levin Sliker, said his parents seem to enjoy his band’s mix of rock and blues. “They’re 100 percent supportive.”