Behind the scenes at Battle of the Bands

Maura Wolf of Ur Mom sings during the final performance of the Battle of the Bands in the Student Center on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Attendees casted ballots at the end of the night to decide who would win.
Maura Wolf of Ur Mom sings during the final performance of the Battle of the Bands in the Student Center on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Attendees casted ballots at the end of the night to decide who would win.
Quentin Blais

In the Student Center’s room 120AB, Emily Robinson, senior and president of the DePaul Music Business Organization (DMBO), furiously types away on her laptop. Every email sent out is another thing crossed off her lengthy to-do list, and Chappell Roan’s “Red Wine Supernova” is stuck in her head from a previous sound check, which is evident from the humming under her breath. She has less than an hour until the doors open for Battle of the Bands, an event she and the rest of the music business group’s executive board have been working on for months.

It’s nearly 4:45 p.m., and while time feels like it’s racing against her, she’s already been here for four hours. After five sound checks, coordinating with the audio and visual techs, and working with the student bands, she finalizes the very last details for the night.

“I always get irrationally worried no one is going to come,” Robinson said. “I just want the artists to feel appreciated.”

Jay Wes performs with Goldy at DMBO’s Battle of the Bands in the Student Center on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The pair were deemed the winners of the event and will be opening for Swae Lee next month. (Quentin Blais)

This year’s Battle of the Bands features five student bands, including Daisy Blue, Longboy, JAY.WES & Goldy, Intoner and Ur Mom. They compete for a student opener spot at FEST 2024 and are each given 15-minute slots to perform for the audience.

“Every single band is so good, and I was dancing to pretty much every single band,” Robinson said. “I just love the art of it all and seeing these artists learning from this event.”

There is no judging panel to decide the winner, so the FEST student opener depends on audience votes. Attendees are given a paper ballot upon entry that is then counted at the end of the night. The cut-off to receive a paper ballot is 7:30 p.m. to ensure no late arrivals can skew the vote toward bands that perform later. 

6:03 p.m.

The doors finally open to a line of students waiting to get in. While Robinson begins fielding questions from eager attendees, she finds small moments to say hi to alumni of the DePaul Music Business Organization. They’re there to support the organization’s biggest event of the year.

“I want to be involved (in music), but I want to make my own money,” Robinson said. “I want to work with artists and help them have successful careers in a world and industry where that’s really hard to do. That’s how I found DMBO, and it felt like exactly where I needed to be.”

Cormick Costello of Intoner plays the bass during their performance at the Battle of the Bands on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Five different groups competed for the role of Fest opener. (Quentin Blais)

Daisy Blue, made up of freshmen Delilah Johnson and Annie Koziel, is first on the set list. This is their first performance ever, but the crowd is quick to dance to their cover of “Red Wine Supernova” that, just minutes before, had been stuck in Robinson’s head. Their performance is faster than the DMBO schedule anticipated, though. Before Robinson can decide if they can move the schedule up to keep the event progressing or stall to keep everyone else on track, Longboy takes the stage.

6:52 p.m.

With three more bands to perform and more than two hours left before the big FEST artist announcement, Robinson devises a plan to stall. She tells Olivia Epstein, sophomore and DMBO event coordinator, to announce the next band at 7:05 p.m. so they can perform on time at 7:10 p.m.

“I only found out last night that I was going to be announcing, and we just wrote the script today,” Epstein said. “I was worried since it was a little last minute, but it was exciting to see everyone’s responses to this hard work we put in.”

While the plan almost works, JAY.WES & Goldy begin their performance at 7:08 p.m. Seniors Jarrin Comer and Jacob Goldberg, known musically as JAY.WES & Goldy, submitted audition tapes for the competition as a duo and individual performers to increase their chances of making it into the competition. After conversations with DMBO members, though, the pair committed as a dual act.

Cormick Costello of Intoner performs at the Battle of the Bands on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The Battle of Bands is held in the Student Center each year to decide which student band will open at Fest. (Quentin Blais)

“I went and saw Battle of the Bands last year, and I told my producer the next day, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this next year,’” Comer said. “I didn’t have a deep enough catalog then, but I knew I’d be back. Now, we’re here and it feels like a blessing.”

7:24 p.m.

While running between the green room, stage and lobby, Robinson sees a wave of people leave as JAY.WES & Goldy’s set ends. She takes on another responsibility, standing guard at the door, encouraging people to stay for the last two bands before turning in their voting ballots.

Robinson, Epstein and Madison Manor, junior and DMBO marketing chair, brainstormed solutions for the timing issues during Intoner’s performance. At any other event, the team would be fine running ahead and leaving early, but a major announcement was still waiting to be made. As DMBO and DAB co-hosted the event, after Battle of the Bands they planned to announce this year’s FEST headliner. 

Both organizations have already promoted on social media that the FEST artist reveal will be at 9 p.m. If Battle of the Bands ends early, attendees will have to wait around for the announcement. If they announce the headliner early, those who arrive only for the reveal will be too late.  

“In that moment, you kind of just have to step back,” Robinson said. “The times had to change, and we didn’t know what was going on. But that’s when you really have to think on your feet and not panic.”

Both organizations decided to post on their social media encouraging students to arrive at the event at 8 p.m. if they want to be there for the FEST artist announcement. Robinson decides to announce the Battle of the Bands’ winner after DAB does their reveal.

“It’s two big organizations trying to do two very different things,” Robinson said. “We’re just trying to help each other.”

8:18 p.m.

Ur Mom’s set ends and Manor announces that DMBO members will begin walking around the room to collect the last voting ballots. Ten minutes later, as the ballots are being counted, DAB members take the stage. Tori Trevino, sophomore and DAB marketing chair, tells attendees to move toward the stage and pose for a photo. Just as the picture is about to be taken, the DAB members freeze in place for the mannequin challenge and Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” begins playing. Swae Lee is announced as the FEST 2024 headliner.

Annie Koziel of Daisy Blue performs the first set of DMBO’s Battle of the Bands in the Student Center on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Her and Delilah Johnson gave their first ever stage performance Wednesday. (Quentin Blais)

Robinson, Epstein and Manor took the stage shortly after to announce the Battle of the Bands winner. On the count of three, the DMBO representatives yelled into the microphone in unison that this year’s winner of Battle of the Bands and the student opener for Swae Lee is JAY.WES & Goldy.

“I’ve been chirping in (Goldberg’s) ear so many ‘if’s’ before today,” Comer said. “I’ve been telling him, ‘If we win, just be ready’ — and now it feels full circle.” 

8:52 p.m.

 As the last attendees file out of the Student Center, Robinson and the remaining DMBO members begin cleaning up. The table in the lobby with the organization’s flyers is put away, the posters advertising the event are taken off their stands, and the lighting and speakers are packed up. Any trace of the past eight hours of work is slowly stripped out of the room.

“We exist to give opportunities to artists so seeing (JAY.WES & Goldy) and their friends cheer and gather around when they won was a very fulfilling feeling,” Manor said. “It made the stress and the long day completely worth it.”

Robinson’s day is finally over. Reflecting on the months of work spent planning Battle of the Bands and seeing the event come to life, she said she is grateful for the hands-on experience it gave her.

“Battle of the Bands is about the music, but it’s also the planning, logistics, production and coordinating,” Robinson said. “You don’t have those skills until you do it.” 

“For DMBO and the people who want to do this in the music business, throwing ourselves in is the only way to know if we can swim.”


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