Friday, May 25, 2007

Local trio battles with other bands for right to compete on international stage

A musical trio that traces its origins to the Woodstock Guitar Festival will head to Troy Saturday night with hopes of landing a major gig in Germany in August.

LuLu's Ascent plays original music that has the feel of ethereal jazz and the structure of rock, capped off by a layer of lyrical icing.

This ensemble - LuAnn Arena of Beacon on bass and vocals, Tom Desisto of West Hurley on guitar and Steve Olenski of Kingston on drums - has advanced through two rounds in the Albany phase of the international Emergenza Festival competition. That showing has earned LuLu's the right to perform Saturday night at Revolution Hall in Troy, where the winner will advance to the next round in New York City.

Finalists from competition rounds held in 90 cities in Europe, 60 in the United States, three in Australia and six in Canada will compete for the top prize in August at the Taubertal Open Air Festival in Germany, which attracts tens of thousands.

The competition started with nearly 10,000 bands worldwide and more than 5,000 in the United States. Three bands from the United States will earn the right to play in the finals in August.

The top band receives six weeks of paid recording studio time in Sweden and could land a slot at the famous South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. National winners from around the world are eligible for new instruments and on-stage equipment, including wireless mike systems, new amplifiers and flight cases.

LuLu's Ascent has made it this far - the Albany round of Emergenza started with 58 bands, now there are 12 - through a show of hands. Bands advance through the opening rounds of Emergenza only after earning the support of the audience. Bands typically bring along their own fans, but might have to win over followers of other ensembles to win.

Of the 12 bands competing in Troy, the first six will be eliminated by a show of hands from the audience. An added element for this round will include a panel of judges that will select one winner from the remaining six bands.

"They must have worked a lot," Marta Guzik, vice director of the Emergenza office in Montreal, said about LuLu's progress. "The bands that are really good are the ones that have votes from other people."

Olenski, a stoneworker and jazz performance major at the State University of New York at New Paltz, hopes Emergenza is a catalyst for turning music into a full-time career.

He enjoys making music because "it's your own art."

Arena, a graphic artist, said the band got involved with Emergenza to gain a foothold in Europe.

"I think we'd fare a lot of better in Europe," Arena said. "From what I've heard from other musicians who have toured there, you get taken care of well; you get paid. They respect you as a musician more than here."

Arena said clubs in New York City typically require bands to draw a minimum number of audience members. If the band doesn't meet the minimum, they don't get paid and they don't get asked back to perform.

"Here, honestly, it's a struggle," she said. "I think it's just so saturated with so many bands. Everybody is competing to get people through the door."

The members of LuLu's Ascent are extremely confident in what they have to offer an audience.

"I think we have our own sound," Desisto, who composes music for film and television, said. "I think that's something that is kind of rare these days. There are a lot of good bands out there. But I don't know who we sound like. I don't know anyone who does what LuAnn does."

Reach John W. Barry at or 845-437-4822.

LuLu's Ascent
Lee Ferris/Poughkeepsie Journal
Lulu's Ascent, featuring, from left, Tom Desisto, Steve Olenski and Luann Arena,
will compete at the Emergenza Festival Competition in Troy.

Hudson Valley band stopped in Troy

If you go

What: LuLu's Ascent, a Hudson Valley band whose members hail from Beacon, Kingston and West Hurley, will battle 11 other bands at the Emergenza Festival competition.

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Where: Revolution Hall, 425 River St., Troy.

Admission: $20.

Information: Call 1-518-274-0553 or visit, or

By the numbers

About the the Emergenza Festival music competition:

— It is staged around the world, at nightclubs in 90 cities in Europe, 60 in the United States, three in Australia and six in Canada.

— The competition began with nearly 10,000 bands worldwide and more than 5,000 in the United States. Three bands from the United States will make it to the finals in Germany in August.

— The winner gets six weeks of paid recording studio time in Sweden.

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