Battle of the Bands Gets Funky with Student Performers

Heavy drums, funky lyrics, and a do-it-yourself atmosphere reigned in the garage-style rock bumping from the Grove House on March 7. The apparel ranged from flannels and Doc Martens to chokers
and color block sweaters, creating a makeshift ’90s hipster paradise. Fun, loud, and Kurt Cobain-esque: Battle of the Bands was back. 

The Grove House hosted the annual Battle of the Bands competition last Friday, March 7. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., musical
groups from the Claremont Colleges played sets of about 15 minutes. 

The event
featured a variety of acts, from a Beyoncé tribute band (Beyonde) to a funk
group with a horn section (Tanktop Matt and the Funktet) and a hip-hop duo. Dylan Baker HM ’17 and Charlie Fleming PZ ’14 performed solo acts, and several rock groups also participated.

Four years ago, Battle of
the Bands was developed to create more opportunity for student involvement in the
Kohoutek Music & Arts Festival. Student bands can apply to compete in the competition, and
the four bands that win have the opportunity to play at Kohoutek. This year’s winners are Beyonde, Jack and the Jesus Juices, Storey and the Tellers, and Tanktop Matt and the Funktet. 

There is a significant overlap between students who perform at Battle of the
Bands and those involved with the Pitzer College music scene and the Kohoutek
planning committee. The students involved are primarily from Pitzer, where there is more awareness and hype surrounding the annual competition. 

Allisyn Ruttle PZ ’16 publicized the event across the Claremont Colleges,
but as a Pitzer student, she said she is accustomed to a typical sense of excitement surrounding Battle of the Bands. 

“This is a thing that Pitzer students look forward to every
year,” she said. “Pitzer bands will practice and gear up just for this event. It has more
of a buzz here, naturally, than any of the other 5C campuses.” 

Ayala-Torres PZ ’15 and Jeff Berger PZ ’15, who played together as Jeff’s Egg, are
co-presidents of Pitzer’s Music Coalition. Ayala-Torres also participates on
the Kohoutek planning committee.

“I wanted to participate because I love
playing music and I really appreciate the opportunity to play Kohoutek,”
Ayala-Torres said. 

Bands that wanted to compete were asked to fill out a spreadsheet and submit a demo.
More bands applied than could perform in the four hours, so Ruttle and the rest
of the Kohoutek committee listened to their demos and decided based on their reactions
to the music. 

“There’s a lot of two- or three-person neo-punk rock, I’ve come to
notice,” Ruttle said. “All of the later acts, like Salteen Sea, Jeff’s Egg, and
Storey and the Tellers, they’re just two-person groups that come together and
play rock-and-roll. Very basic, stripped-down rock-and-roll.”

exception to this genre was Nick Popkey PZ ’16 and Alex Fraknoi PZ ’16, who performed under the name of Frak. The duo performs hip-hop, which is usually in short supply at

Popkey and Fraknoi attend weekly Hip-Hop Club meetings, which have inspired Popkey to further pursue music and broaden his skills. Although they had not
performed together officially before Battle of the Bands, Popkey said that the two “have a lot of
experience free-styling together with our other friends that enjoy rapping here
at the 5Cs.”

Popkey said he has hoped to perform at Kohoutek ever since he saw his friends perform at Battle of the Bands last year.

Baker was the only
performer who is not a student at Pitzer. However, as a singer-songwriter always seeking performance opportunities, she said that the
Claremont consortium is a good place to be as a musician.

“I’ve had
chances to do a number of Wednesday Nighters [Harvey Mudd College’s weekly student
performances] and a few other small performances,” said Baker, who is also in an a cappella group. 

the Battle of the Bands performances, the audience had until Wednesday, March 12 to vote for
their favorite groups. Although the student votes matter, Ruttle and the
committee also take into account the other groups that will be performing at Kohoutek. 

student body vote isn’t the 100 percent deal-breaker,” Ruttle said. “That just gives us
an idea of what the students want. But we also take into account genre gaps. We have the student bands fill that.” 

Typically, Kohoutek primarily consists of neo-bluegrass and funk bands with extensive use of banjos, Ruttle said. The festival
involves a good deal of fun and dancing, and the student bands reflect that. 

that come together to have fun,” Ruttle said. “That’s what we like to see.” 

Ayala-Torres said, “Everything is very light-hearted and meant for people
to enjoy themselves.” 

The Kohoutek Music & Arts Festival will take place April 25-26 at Pitzer. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public. 

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