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Intersolar's Solar Battle of the Bands, Round 2: When the Solar Industry Really Comes Together


It may be a “battle,” but the entire industry is really the winner in “Solar Battle of the Bands: Round 2,” a new tradition at Intersolar North America.

I didn’t think a solar industry event could shine any better than the first Solar Battle of the Bands, but this year’s second edition establishes SBOB as the single solar industry community event that cannot be missed, and here’s why:

The event isn’t about the business, and it’s not even about the music. It’s about our industry’s solar people… who just happen to be very talented cover bands — and I’m not being kind here for the sake of solar solidarity. Every band member was an employee of their respective solar companies, and they were all terrific — as good as any club band you might see in cities around the U.S. The feel-good atmosphere was infectious on stage and in the audience. Many in the audience were completely floored by familiar faces doing something out of their solar world. The next day after the show, one of the most common questions I heard people ask on the Intersolar trade floor was about whether they got to see Solar Battle of the Bands and how fantastic the show was.

And did I mention fun? As in, Tioga Energy, whose Special Purpose Entity not only rock-a-billy’d the house, but also provided go-go girls in matching go-go boots and 60’s mini-dresses.  Then there was Zep, The Band, whose trio of back-up singers immodestly and unabashedly screeched like true Rock Lobsters in an authentic B-52’s send-up. Then there were the various wigs, matching sunglasses, and choreographed unique solo intros that showcased their musical instruments and talents.

There was also true solar industry leadership on stage — literally. It seemed like Zep Solar’s entire board of directors was in the band: Jack West, Zep’s CTO and Chair, played 8-string guitar and vocals (not to mention, built his own guitar); CEO Mike Miskovsky played guitar, bass and vocals; VP of Business Development Daniel Flanigan played guitar, bass and vocals; Vice President of Business Operations Christina Manansala joined back-up singers Sharon Litzky and Liz Mead for the Lobster screeching as well as much sweeter harmonies. 

By a vote of the full-house crowd at The Mezzanine (twice the size of last year’s venue), Zep, The Band (pictured) won on its own musical and stage performance merits, but the way they played, I doubt the goal was ever to win a plaque, but just to rock the solar house. (One wonders if the company started as a garage band and then got into racking.)

Sungevity’s The Killa Watts came in a reportedly close second in the voting. I’ve never seen Tina Turner live in concert, but I felt like I had with lead singer Colleen George’s megawatt performance. She was all over the stage and backed by Wyatt Roy, tenor sax; Misha Balmer, alto sax; Stephanie Smith, flute; Noah Ginsburg, keyboards; Joss Jaffe, guitar; Jeff Cleland, bass; Andrew Adelman, drums; and background vocalists Erinne Davis and Aurora Meerjans.

Did you read all of those instruments mentioned above? There were other solar people with serious musical tools, too: A member of SolarCity’s SoulMetrics whipped out a violin and fiddled a faithful “Come on Eileen.” SMA’s The Voltaics had keyboards and an amazing brass section of sax and trumpets, while Tioga Energy’s band featured keyboards and electric guitars.

Last but not least, Wave Array, the non-competing “house band” from co-organizer Quick Mount PV, backed up Session Solar’s Christie McCarthy for a live performance of her original solar anthem “Rise and Shine.”  Would be cool to see more original solar music next year from each of the bands, perhaps with a separate voting category. The entire evening was kept together and warmly MC’d by Wave Array/Quick Mount’s Johan Alfsen.

The event had many sponsors, and I’m sure they all got their PR money’s worth. Pre-show word of mouth was so great that the event became invitation only, and if you didn’t personally pick up your ticket at a sponsor’s Intersolar booth, it was given to those on a long wait list. A raffle also benefited NorCal Solar’s advocacy efforts.

As much as the bands and sponsors were noticed, SBOB really was more than just a guerrilla marketing opportunity. After nearly a year of consolidations, trade disputes, and political attacks, Solar Battle of the Bands was a reminder that solar companies may be competitors, but they're made of people. They have families and lives, and some of them can even play music and rock for solar.

In short, Solar Battle of the Bands is truly a great way…to UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

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