Chicago agencies tune up for 2017 Battle of the Ad Bands


Cramer-Krasselt’s “Angry PiCKles”

Chicago’s biggest amateur band contest between agencies is starting later than usual, but that’s because anticipation is higher and demand is greater. This year, the final battle will be held June 15, instead of the usual Spring time frame.

Battle for Hope is the annual fund-raising event that pits Chicago agencies against each other. Band members trade in their pencils and stylus for drumsticks and guitar pics.

The primary goal is to raise awareness and funds for Off the Street Club (OTSC), Chicago’s oldest boys’ and girls’ club. The secondary objective is to be crowned Chicago’s winning band.

But this year the founders for Battler for Hope threw a chink in the armor. They added a pre-qualification phase, where bands will have to compete before the final performance. The audience choose the top three, who will then play during the finals.

“Previously, we were limited on the number of agency bands that could participate,” said Sujal Patel, SVP at DigitasLBI. “There were companies that wanted to support Off The Street Club and compete in the event, but couldn’t. Adding this new step makes the event more inclusive and gives more bands the chance to play.”

Battle founders Kris English, Sujal Patel and Simon KisslerDigitasLBi employees Sujal Patel, Kris English and Simon Kissler, started the first battle in 2012. What began as a small event turned into a knock down, drag out fight for attendance.

Last year, Battle for Hope volunteers had to turn away people already standing line at the Cubby Bear Lounge. Adding the pre-qualification may also give people who might not be able to attend the finals a chance to hear the bands.

The Battle for Hope team recently announced that the pre-qualificaiton battle will occur at Hungry Brain located at 2319 W. Belmont in Roscoe Village. The Hungry Brain is a bar that specializes in cutting edge music.

Bands participating in the pre-qualification phase can play whatever set they want, as long as their presence on the stage lasts at least 23 minutes long. The bands chosen to play in the finals will be judged on their individual performances and on the amount of money they raise for the show, which will still be held at the Cubby Bear.

Patel says there are two criteria for winning this year’s battle. “They need to help raise money for Off The Street Club and members of each band all have to come from one agency. The fund-raising goal for 2017 is $100,000. Look for details on the pre-qualification battle and final battle in the coming weeks.


Cramer-Krasselt and its Not-so-Angry Pickle

For the last three years, Cramer-Krasselt’s amateur band, Angry PiCKles has taken the prize in Battle for Hope, Chicago’s amateur agency band contest (C-K won top prize for two years and second place one year). Some would say that C-K’s Peter Debnar helped the band achieve stardom because of his unique moves. And they may be right. Debnar is the band’s pickle mascot.

In addition to being able to play well, the winning band also must get the most votes from the audience. That’s where Debnar’s talents lie. The ability to rile up the audience. According to C-K, Debnar usually shy away from the camera. But get him onstage, and a new persona rises up. His angry pickle moves can get audiences screaming.

It appears that Debnar also is very involved during practice sessions. “When a song isn’t quite there yet, or when we hit a wrong note, look out,” noted Jimmy Dietzen the band’s drummer. “He’s tough on us. His expectations are difficult to live up to.”

This year, with a great number of bands competing for top prize, the Angry PiCKle band is not taking anything for granted. The group has already begun choosing its set list practicing. Debnar is finding new ways to move with the music. “Whatever he comes up with, it seems to be a winning formula,” noted Dietzen. “We’ve won the top prize two years in a row.”