The Lauren Wolf Band was winning the national Live Nation/Mamba Battle of the Bands contest when guitarist Patrick Dugan discovered something was wrong.
"We thought we were sitting pretty in first place and, much to our despair, one day we pulled up the page and our video was just gone," said Dugan, a Naperville resident. "We didn't even know what was going on at first."
When the band contacted the contest organizers, they found out that they'd been disqualified. One of their 125 competitors had reported that The Lauren Wolf Band was trying to bribe fans to vote for them because they mentioned the contest on the same site as one of their regular giveaways, this one for two movie tickets. When they contested the ruling, they were allowed back in the contest, but they had to enter a new music video and all of their previous votes were wiped. So the band used a new song, appropriately called "Bounce Back," and went back to their fans to ask them to vote again.
"Everyone came back stronger for us," Lauren Wolf said. "It was really heartwarming."
Earning 2,500 votes, about twice the number of the second-place finisher, The Lauren Wolf Band won a spot performing along with four other bands at the House of Blues in Chicago Thursday, Dec. 27.
"People all over the country and overseas voted for us every day," Wolf said. "It wasn't just Chicago like we thought it would be."
Wolf, a Northbrook resident, started her career by performing in musicals throughout Chicago, including spending years playing Little Red Riding Hood for Chicago Kids Company. In 2009, she was going through a divorce when she decided to enter a six-week Road to Fame singing competition. She didn't tell anyone until she'd advanced so far she needed votes, and she wound up winning the competition, which awarded her with a trip to Los Angeles where she recorded her first album, "All My Secrets."
"I thought 'I don't want to turn back from this lifestyle,'" she said. "I think this is what I always wanted to do. This is where I feel comfortable."
When she returned to Chicago, her producer organized auditions to put together a band. Dugan was her first choice. In addition to playing the guitar, he also sings and acts as musical director, often putting music to Lauren's lyrics. Together with bassist Bill Marzano of Warrenville and drummer Mervin Dimailig, they're working on writing songs for their second album, which they hope to release next spring.
"The first album was about my personal trauma, and good things, too, that I was going through," Wolf said. "Now it's a little bit more classic rock. It's fun to write this together as opposed to just my background. It's a little bit more of a positive album."
Wolf is balancing a music career with raising an 8-year-old daughter, with a lot of help from her family.
"It can be tough, but my mom lives here, my sister lives in the area, her dad lives close by and he helps out," Wolf said. "If it's an all-ages show she gets to come. She's a pretty cool kid, too."