On Friday, April 15, student bands, Programming Board and Collis After Dark brought together the “Battle of the Bands” in Collis Common Ground. The event featured back to back ten-minute sets from campus bands “The Dandelions,” “Frank,” “Moon Unit,” “Pegasus,” “Read Receipts,” “Shark” and “Summer on Venus,” with “Moon Unit” taking first prize to be the student opener for Green Key in May, beating out “Frank” in second and “The Dandelions” in third.
Each audience member was given six tickets to vote, and were required to stay for the duration of the event, which began at 10 p.m. and finished close to 1 a.m. The event reached full capacity before it even started, according to Emma Elsbecker ’24, one of the Programming Board executive members who organized the event.
“Easily over a 100 people were turned away,” Elsbecker said.
While the event was competitive in nature, Elsbecker said that she saw a lot of collaboration and camaraderie from the student bands.
“There were these really cool moments of the bands working together, and filling Common Ground was one of those moments when they all looked at each other and were like ‘we filled Common Ground’,” she said.
The energy of collaboration was noted by “Frank” band member Brian Lee ’22.
“Even though it was a competition, the event was a rejuvenating experience,” he said.
Indeed, members of the bands were seen watching the other sets on the edges of the stage. Max Barrett ’22 of “Moon Unit” emphasized that it didn't feel like the bands were just there to play, but to enjoy each other's music as well.
During points when there were technical issues, members from various bands would come on stage to troubleshoot equipment for others, stemming from the group’s shared love of performing.
Lee, who iterated how impressed he was with the talent of all the bands, recalled looking around backstage and thinking about what it would be like to have a “jam session” at that moment.
The compressed set times of the bands added further to the energy. Barrett said that “Moon Unit” usually prepares an hour or hour and a half long set, but having only ten minutes was exciting.
“It was fun to think about what we could do to make the most of the time,” Barrett said.
Not only was the time limit generative for his own band’s approach, but made the show more enjoyable.
“It felt like a highlight reel of everyone’s best stuff,” he said.
Getting the bands together for one event felt rare not only because of the amount of talent in one room, but also because student band performances are otherwise frequently segmented. Greek spaces — predominantly fraternities — are the most prominent patronizers of student music. Some of the groups who performed at “Battle of the Bands” are even strongly associated with certain fraternities.
Elsbecker believed that the venue had important differences from other student band shows.
“It is important for unaffiliated folks to have social spaces like this,” she said.
Cooper Zebrack ‘22 noted that Collis Common Ground as a venue was exciting for “Moon Unit” because they are not clearly associated with a specific fraternity.
“We don’t have the same frat backing that some other bands do, like the way ‘Frank’ is a [Bones Gate] band and ‘The Dandelions’ are a [Theta Delta Chi] band,” Zebrack said.
Bringing the bands together in Collis Common Ground, while under the auspices of a contest, was in many ways more unifying than other shows simply by virtue of all of the bands being in the same, neutral space of the student center, Elsbecker said.
Barrett also applauded Collis Common Ground as a venue for its technical capabilities.
“Having [Battle of the Bands] in Collis in a nice big room instead of a frat and having people helping with sound made it so fun to hear,” he said.
According to Elsbecker, about 220 students stayed until the close of the event, when voting began.
Because of the vote system, “It did come down to who could bring out the most mobile fanbase,” Zebrack said, “but people have a fanbase for a reason.”
Elsbecker noted that the reason why voters were required to stay for the duration of the event was to give every band a fair shot at earning votes.
“While some people certainly voted with their whole panel for one band, we had a lot of singles and sets of three,” she said. “I think a lot of people came in and split votes. I think some minds were changed.”
As for the future, “Moon Unit” is looking forward to opening for Green Key.
“This last term feels like a final chapter. We all feel bittersweet about it because we love to hang out and play music, but this is an exciting way to finish things off,” Barrett said.
Correction appended (Apr. 21, 10:18 a.m.): A previous version of this article misspelled Zebrack's name. The article has been updated.