Section: Arts

Student bands battle it out to perform at Summer Sendoff

Student bands battle it out to perform at Summer Sendoff


Saturday night. 8:30 p.m. Kenyon’s second annual Battle of the Bands, co-sponsored by Social Board and the Horn Gallery, wasn’t due to start for another half hour, but the line to get inside already stretched out the door. Lured by promises of free T-shirts and a food truck, Kenyon students flocked to the Horn Gallery like moths to a flame. Within 10 minutes, the T-shirt supply had run out, but the fun was just getting started.

The competition featured performances from 10 bands (and, in classic Kenyon style, one bonus DJ group). The prize? The coveted opportunity to open for the 2024 Summer Sendoff performer. Last year, when the act was musical duo Social House, only one student band (the much-beloved group Paul Obie) got to open. However, after listening to community feedback, Kenyon’s Social Board announced that this year’s Battle of the Bands would have three winners. Audience members scanned a QR code to vote for their favorite act immediately after the show ended, and the winners were announced shortly thereafter.

The first winners to be announced were Jacob Cohen’s Traveling Bar Mitzvah Big Band, who performed Dexys Midnight Runners’ classic song “Come on Eileen.” The group’s stage presence was electric, and the audience jubilantly joined lead singer Ellie Greenberg ’25 each time she sang the chorus. “Performing was a blur, but it was great to have everyone singing along with us,” Greenberg wrote in an email to the Collegian. The highlight of the performance came when trumpeter Nick Kloor ’26 crowd-surfed, not missing a single note as he was passed from hand to hand.

The next winning band, All Goof No Ball, wowed the audience with a lively performance of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.” In a group interview with the Collegian, the band discussed their rehearsal schedule and the dedication the members have to their craft. “Our practices consist of three weekly sessions of two hours,” Raphael Melo ’25 said. The band also gave insight into how they chose their song. “A really big aspect of [Battle of the Bands] is song selection and how much you can get the crowd behind you, so we needed a song that we knew everyone was going to know,” Sam Chafe ’24 explained. The strategy clearly paid off.

Last but not least, the third band who will be opening Sendoff is the Rusty Strings. Their rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias” may have been more lowkey than the other winners’ performances, but it was nevertheless captivating. They didn’t just sound like rock stars — they looked the part too; lead singer Russell Thomas ’26 could have stepped straight out of the ’70s with his bell-bottom pants and his long hair in a headband. Although he was nervous going into the performance, Thomas told the Collegian that it was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. “It felt kind of surreal, but in a good way,” he said. “To hear that people actually liked us enough to vote for us was pretty cool.”

Although Battle of the Bands may technically be a competition, the event organizers’ primary goals were to bring joy to the Kenyon community and highlight student talent. “I thought every act was phenomenal,” Horn Gallery manager John Kibler ’25 wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Everyone clearly poured their hearts out for this.” The audience clearly agreed; they danced and sang along to each performance, screaming the lyrics to crowd-pleasers like Radiohead’s “Just” and the All-American Rejects’ “Dirty Little Secret.”

The Summer Sendoff headliner has yet to be announced, but the members of all three winning bands are excited to open for whoever it may be. They do, of course, harbor secret fantasies. “I would like to open for Weird Al Yankovic,” All Goof No Ball’s Jack Lindemann ’26 said. Dream big, Jack.


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