Backstage at BOB

Written by: Niyanthri

Edited by: Erich

Visual by: Owen

January 28, 2023: Members of the audience mill around the field, many wearing BOB shirts and buying all kinds of snacks and treats from the various vendors. Even before the performances start, the excitement is palpable – from the participants and attendees alike. But once they start, the energy reaches new levels as the performers give it their all in a bid to secure a berth at the finals. The crowd responds in kind, with thunderous applause, shouts of encouragement, and waving flashlights. BOB (Battle of the Bands) is fast approaching. But this time, instead of the entirety of high school participating, a select group of musical performers will be fighting it out in the prelims for a spot as one of the finalists. With nine bands, three digital performers, and sixteen vocalists showcasing their talents on Saturday, the 28th of January, the stage is set for an unforgettable night. And what better way to take a look behind the curtains than to hear from the participants and organizers of the event themselves! 

Miel, a sophomore who is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the band the Maple Logs (formerly the Chicharon Chimps), has been preparing with his group for three months. When asked why the band decided to join, he said, “we honestly just thought it’d be really fun. We had the instruments and enough experience so why not?” As expected, the audition process turned out to be extremely enjoyable. Miel explains that, “we’re a band of friends, so it’s mainly just goofing off and having fun with some music involved.” Given that he views BOB as a chance to spend time with friends while continuing to engage with a beloved activity, Miel looks forward most to bonding with other performers and “getting to be in his own little concert”. For prelims, the Maple Logs will be performing hits like I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones and Everybody Talks by the Neon Trees.

Despite its name, Battle of the Bands is not limited to groups or those performing with instruments. In fact, sixteen of the participants are vocalists; five will be performing as a group, while the remaining eleven are competing as soloists. Connor, a junior, is one such solo vocalist who will be performing Circles by Post Malone in the prelims. Despite having only rehearsed for a week, his experience with BOB extends far beyond that. When asked about his motivations for joining, he stated, “I decided to perform because I have watched every BOB for eight years now, and each year I have built incredible amounts of admiration for the people brave enough to go out and perform. So now I thought I should gather the courage to do it.” Performing in front of a large crowd isn’t an easy task for anyone, but it is clearly a rewarding learning experience for those who decide to go through with it. In Connor’s words, “I look forward most to showing myself how I deal with pressure.”

There’s truly something for everyone at BOB. For students who are interested in musical production, there is a digital music artist category where participants can showcase their final pieces. Minkyu, a junior who already has some prior experience with music production – having released original music on Soundcloud and Spotify  – will be performing a jazz/hip hop track. However, there is more to his track than meets the eye, as he sets out to perform “a compilation of my jazzy hiphop beats based off of sampling old jazz songs, paying a tribute to those artists who became the inspiration of modern day music.” Going beyond a display of musical talent, it is an effort to introduce the audience to a style that may not be well known, combined with a personal interpretation of jazz. Additionally, BOB is a way for aspiring musicians to gain exposure; Minkyu, for example, notes that, “since it is the biggest event in ISM, as a musician, I always wanted to showcase my talent to someone, and I thought BOB would be the best event to do so.” It’s particularly impactful, as this year will also mark the first in-person BOB in three years, making it a big attraction for those attending as well as those performing. For Minkyu, “the best thing I’m looking forward to the most on performance day is just the fact that it is the first face to face BOB in so many years. Nothing can be better than actually being able to watch people perform and vibe along with my friends.” The atmosphere of BOB 2023 is sure to be one of a kind!

As BOB is ISM’s largest fundraising event, a lot goes on behind the scenes to make sure the show goes off without a hitch. Sophia, the Co-Executive Director of the BOB, has been part of the committee since ninth grade. Due to her role, she is involved in many different aspects of the planning process, but her favourite part is “seeing the event come to life which I haven’t experienced since I was in ninth grade. We spend months, almost a whole year, planning the logistics behind BOB so it’s incredibly satisfying to see all our hard work materialise into an event that our entire community can take part in and enjoy, especially since it’s student-led.” Aside from being important for the Bearcat community, BOB has a broader significance for the local community as well. In this regard, Sophia states, “I also love how in addition to being for our ISM community, at the end of the day, all our proceeds go to various local service partners.” Service partners include One Million Lights, Operation Smile, For the Future, and many more, as per the BOB 2023 website. This depicts the two major facets of BOB: a great way to have fun and an opportunity to give back to our host country.

BOB is back, and it’s set to be better than ever! The stage is set. The performers are ready. The crowd waits with bated breath. The incredible performances at prelims are definitely ones we’ll be talking about for a while! 

However, only a lucky few can make it to the next stage. Without further ado, the bands who will be performing in this year’s finals are Blue Marble, Djots, Banana Republic, Tropical Apes, Comet Duckling, H.E.X.A.C.O.DA and Beeves, the vocalists CJ, Ananya, Khaloula, Andre, Marny, Beli and Chloe, and Minkyu, Matthew, and Mio for the digital performers category! That being said, each and every performer who took part in BOB should be commended for their efforts – without them, BOB would not be the unique, memorable event it is today. 

As the curtains close on prelims, finals fast approach and an epic battle awaits. Mark your calendars for February 11 to find out who will be the last one standing!