SWAN creates a space for developing NU musicians at Battle of the Bands


Beatrice Villaflor/The Daily Northwestern

Musicians like Communication graduate student Yilan Li showed off their original compositions.

Beatrice Villaflor, Reporter

Three newly formed student bands performed original songs and covers to raucous applause in Lutkin Hall on Friday at the Songwriters Association at Northwestern’s first Battle of the Bands competition. 

Bienen and Communication junior Anna Castagnaro, SWAN’s co-president, said the club planned the event throughout Fall Quarter.

“People who aren’t music majors or people who want to learn how to write songs or produce, they just don’t really have a space to do that physically and community-wise.” Castagnaro said. 

McCormick sophomore Ritvik Karra said giving these musicians a space was a motivation for hosting the event. As one of the co-organizers for Battle of the Bands, he said it was difficult to arrange practice spaces and instrument rentals during the planning process. 

Karra is also the drummer for the band 99%, which performed at the Friday event. He described the band as demographically “99% Desi and 1% Indonesian.” 

99% kicked off its set with “Life is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts. Weinberg sophomore and lead vocalist Samir Khatri’s belting reverberated to the back of the hall. The four band members’ chemistry was also palpable as they joked with the audience and each other. 

“Are there any Chainsmokers fans in the house? Are there any chain-smokers?” Khatri quipped before launching into a medley of The Chainsmokers’ “Something Just Like This” and “Closer.” 

During the set, 99% explored a range of musical styles, following “Under Cover of Darkness” by The Strokes with an understated cover of “Rude” by MAGIC!. 

Moontide, helmed by Communication graduate student Yilan Li, also performed at the battle. Li, who produced and wrote the band’s entire set, said her music is about “unfulfilled, missed and upcoming encounters.” 

Li’s light, airy vocals contrasted the booming drums and bass lines of her bandmates during their first song, “Different Hue.” 

“Planet Klein” featured lyrics in Mandarin, Li’s first language, distinguishing it from other songs played throughout the evening. 

Li said though she was worried audiences wouldn’t resonate with the song due to the language barrier, her bandmates encouraged her to put “Planet Klein” in their set.

The ethereal calm of Moontide was contrasted by the piercing sound of Revere, the last band of the night. 

Revere engaged the audience with an invitation to mosh. Some audience members took their phones out to film, and others crowded the stage for “Bleed American” by Jimmy Eat World. 

The band’s brooding set was rounded off with “Highway Star” by Deep Purple.

Audience members voted for their favorite act and favorite musician throughout the performances. 

After a tense wait, Revere emerged victorious as the crowd pleaser. The band played an instrumental encore as audience members filed out to start their weekends. 

“When I see the other two bands perform, I think that they are really talented,” Li said about her band’s loss. “(Moontide has) some space for improvement … (but) we totally enjoyed it.” 

Similarly, Karra said the result of the competition was secondary to the happiness he felt seeing the event come to fruition. To Karra, spaces like Battle of the Bands are invaluable to the music-making community at NU. 

“I’m just happy that it happened,” Karra said. “The turnout was really good, people got excited, the bands were happy, the people watching the event were happy.” 

Castagnaro also said hosting the event was important in empowering students to continue developing their craft. 

She added that SWAN plans to host similar events to cultivate ensemble music beyond Battle of the Bands.

“I can see (band members’) faces light up when they’re able to write music.” Castagnaro said. “We get to see these ensembles come to life in a space that’s really theirs.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @beaviilla

Related Stories:

Sound Source: SWAN creates a community for songwriters on campus

Captured: Student musical artists perform at Kresgepalooza

Songwriters Association to host music festival Kresgepalooza for student artists