March 12, 2009
Rock and Roll Law School: LawLawPalooza celebrates 15 years of music and charity
It was a cool, drizzly fall day in 1994 when a group of UI law students gathered at John Norris' little green house on Riverside Drive to play music and dance in the time honored tradition of relieving the stress of studying the for law. Given the number of musicians, former musicians and wannabe musicians in the law school, a concert seemed to make sense.
So they turned the little green house's driveway into a stage, added a decent sound system, some not-so-decent lighting and invited anyone who ever played an instrument to come and jam. Then they put on an old-fashioned music festival for eight hours, or 10 or 12 or however many it was, clear memories having been mostly lost in the fog of time and various indulgences of the day.
Today, 15 years later, LawLawPalooza has become one of the highlights of the UI law school's calendar and one of its biggest charitable fundraisers, with proceeds benefiting law students who participate in public interest law projects during their summers.
This year's LawLawPalooza starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, at The Yacht Club in Iowa City. Among those slated to perform are law students Rob Sand, David Wiest, Kevin Dawson and Andrew Pratt, along with local acts Ephraim Sehn and School of Flyentology. Admission is $5.
In many ways, today's LawLawPalooza is little different than that first concert. The name was a corruption of the then-prominent Lollapalooza Festival, a traveling rock concert and freak show that featured some of the biggest metal and alternative music acts of its day, like Jane's Addiction, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica. It was also accompanied by the car-wreck-with-injuries weirdness of such performers as Mr. Lifto in the Jim Rose Circus.
"It was really just a chance to get together with friends who liked music and jam together to blow off some steam," said Jay Byers, a 1996 law graduate and one of the organizers of the first event.
"We were just hoping for a good time, and looking for a way to raise some money for a good cause," said Norris, a 1995 law graduate.
LawLawPalooza may not have had big name headliners like Jane's Addiction or Metallica (or even Mr. Lifto), but that first one did have bands like Parts and Labor and hOly cAtz. And while Lollapalooza focused on ear-bleedingly loud music for headbangers and social misfits, LawLawPalooza took a more eclectic approach, letting anybody play whatever they wanted. Such diverse styles as Zydeco, folk, traditional Irish, country, Jazz, a'cappella and pop have found a welcoming home at LLP.
Parts and Labor was an alt-country band playing music akin to Uncle Tupelo or early Wilco, while the Rodeo Clowns was an acoustic band covering tunes as disparate as the Gear Daddies, the Beatles and John Prine. The top act that first year, though, was an all-star collection of the night's acts that played an off the cuff, straight ahead rock and roll that would have blown the roof off the place had there been a roof to blow off.
"There actually was some good, quality music," said Norris, who played guitar for Rodeo Clowns.
"What was always fun about LawLawPalooza was the wide variety of talent and genres," said Chad Strathman, a 1996 graduate and member of Parts and Labor, who is one of many LLP veterans who has returned in subsequent years to play. "You have everything from 60-year-old guys singing folk songs down to guys playing in garage bands and the performances are actually pretty good."
But how do hard working law students fit rehearsal time into their busy schedules? "Hey, once you're through your first year, there's no excuse not to be in a band before you have to face the working world," said Strathman.
LLP has featured more than just students, too. Patty Ankrum, the college's video operations manager, has been a frequent performer.
"The organizers approached me to ask if I'd play," she recalled, grabbing anybody and everybody they could think of to fill the ticket that first time and since everyone loved to play music, they jumped at the chance. Ankrum, who now plays in the band Black Sheep, has played with various bands or been involved in subsequent LLPs many times since its inception.
After that first concert and its let's-put-on-a-show ethic, the students took a more organized approach. To make sure LawLawPalooza outlasted them, they brought it under the aegis of the Equal Justice Foundation, who continues to sponsor the event every year. It moved to venues more suitable for a concert than the backyard of a rented house -- the Iowa Memorial Union, the Q Bar, The Mill, and for the last few years, The Yacht Club.
They also formalized the concert as a charity event; the first concert took in about $750 for an Iowa City domestic violence shelter. Recent concerts have raised more than $2,000 to provide financial assistance to public interest student lawyers.
Ankrum credits the new batch of students every year who are dedicated to continuing the LLP tradition for its success. "You can't assume this event will just keep happening of its own volition. Each new year of students are the ones who keep pushing this thing forward one year to next," Ankrum said.
She said it had a good push forward on that first cool, drizzly fall day.
"The room glowed," said Ankrum. "Even though it was held outdoors, it glowed and we all got a strong sense that this was something that needed to continue."
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org