The cheers of students and fans are drowned out by the booming music emanating from the speakers that pulses through the crowd and out to the street. The final round of Battle of the Bands has begun.
Hosted by Associated Student Productions and Make.Shift Art Space, the contest had three preliminary rounds with three bands competing each round before the finale on Sunday, May 22.
One band was chosen from each round to compete in the final round.
This year’s three final contestants were Rex Queen, Crooked Neighbours and Designer Disguise.
Crooked Neighbours, this year’s winner, went home with free recording time with Silk Audio, as well as the opportunity to perform at the Make.Shift block party and Lawnstock.
For Elsbeth Doesburg, the cellist of Crooked Neighbours, the Battle of the Bands was less about the prize, and more about connecting with fellow local artists, she said.
“The best aspect is networking and meeting other musicians, and hearing a variety of music,” Doesburg said.
After their preliminary round performance on April 16, Crooked Neighbours was met with an overwhelmingly energetic response, something that stuck with lead singer, Rachel McDonough.
“When it came to that show it was exciting to feel the whole crowd and hear them as well as them hearing us, and participating with us,” McDonough said. “It’s always fun to see them get wrapped up in the music.”
Similarly to Doesburg, Chance Eichner, guitarist and keyboard player of Rex Queen, views the Battle of the Bands as an experience rather than a competition.
“We don’t think of it as a competition because that’s not what the music is about,” Eichner said. “I just like the opportunity to share, create and a have a fun night with a bunch of local artists.”
Throughout winter quarter AS Productions called for submissions for the contest; they received around 50 submissions from local bands.
Marketing Coordinator for Music and Entertainment Aarin Wright and the panel of four judges narrowed down those submissions to nine bands.
The judges vary in age and background, including a 15-year-old representative from Make.Shift, a representative from Western’s KUGS radio station, a Fairhaven ethnomusicology professor and the booking manager from the Wild Buffalo.
The submissions were open to the community and did not require bands to have members from Western.
All of the bands with members who are Western students were also submitted to perform in a separate showcase at the Underground Coffeehouse called Sounds of the Underground.
Each Wednesday after a preliminary round, Sounds of the Underground would take place to allow bands with Western students another chance to perform.
Wright hopes that the contest will open the eyes of those who attend to the local music scene of Western and Bellingham.
“The local music scene here in Bellingham is killing it and there are so many amazing opportunities here to see some amazing music,” Wright said.
Jackson Bengtsson, lead singer for Designer Disguise, was excited for the opportunity to play up north, with their Battle of the Bands performance being only their second time performing in Bellingham.
Location aside, Bengtsson said performing is everything to him.
“I love playing music and I love writing music, but performing is the apex, sharing music with people is amazing,” Bengtsson said.
In addition to performances by Designer Disguise, Rex Queen and Crooked Neighbours, the band Hello, I’m Sorry was chosen as the wild card performance.
The wild card performer was determined by a survey posted online, and voted on by event goers prior to the final round.
Sophomore Janelle Talley experienced her first Battle of the Bands at this year’s final round, and wishes there were more all-ages music opportunities on campus like Battle of the Bands.
Local music as a whole is significant, Talley said.
“Local bands are super important, music brings people together, and later on [when they’re famous] you get to say that you went to school with them or were friends with them,” Talley said.
For those who missed the Battle of the Bands final round, Rex Queen, Hello, I’m Sorry and winners Crooked Neighbours will be performing Friday, May 27, at the Waterfront Seafood and Bar for $5 a person.
The event is 21 and older.