Since its conception in 2001, the Jewish Community Center’s Battle of the Bands has offered young Syracuse-area musicians the opportunity to display their chops in a supportive environment. In addition, those musicians have received valuable artistic feedback from prominent members within the local music community.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, the JCC holds the 11th edition of its annual teen musical competition at the SPOT (Syracuse Project 4 Our Teens), a youth center run by the JCC and located inside Shoppingtown Mall. The bands begin playing at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $7.
Each band—there are 10 prescreened acts—gets 30 minutes of stage time. The performances will be evaluated by three judges: Ryan Gorham, owner of Gorham Brothers Music; SubCat Studios co-owner Jeremy Johnston; and Syracuse Post-Standard entertainment writer Mark Bialczak.
The winning group receives $200 cash, a “prize pack” from Gorham Brothers Music, and six hours of studio time at SubCat. Last year JCC coordinators instituted a “fan favorite” vote, a move indicative of the event’s growing popularity among its target demographic: high school students.
“We’ve always been very tied to the high schools,” said Lori Innella-Venne, JCC’s director of teen camps. “Pre-Facebook we would actually get teachers to hang posters and mention the event to musicians they might know.” In this Facebook-saturated era, the JCC invited 600 Facebook users to this year’s Battle of the Bands.
Although the organization has shifted its focus from locker-to-locker promotion to social media marketing, local high schools remain the beneficiaries. One dollar from each ticket sold gets returned to the high school the ticket buyer attends—whether Corcoran, Nottingham or Jamesville-DeWitt. Innella-Venne said that the JCC has recently begun funneling the entirety of those proceeds specifically into music programs.
The acts vary stylistically. Innella-Venne reported seeing everything from classic rock to hip-hop. Last year’s winners, a three-piece called The New Daze, stole the show with its jam-band heroics. Among this year’s competitors: Kill the Lites, Casual Plaid, The Cold Shores Band, Take The Stairs, Cloud 9 Radio, Shattered Silence, Light the Sky, Blind Jaguar and Reverse Redemption.
Ryan Gorham says the event allows talented teens the opportunity to gain crucial performance experience in a safe space amid enthusiastic peers and camera-wielding parents. “It’s important that these kids have somewhere to play that’s not their parent’s garage.”
The SPOT is located in the wing between Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sears inside Shoppingtown Mall, 3649 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt. It features a corner stage, concert lighting and a loaded snack bar. Tickets are available at the door. Call 445-2360 for more information.