Someday, Tuesday’s Battle of the Bands at Manhattan High School might represent the back story to the beginning stages of a popular musician’s career. That’s the hope of many in the four bands, who performed original songs during 30-minute sets.
During the opening performance by White, SummerTime waited backstage. The two acts couldn’t have been more different.
White is a group of five guys who perform heavy metal; SummerTime is actually just one person — Summer Senn — who plays country.
While White thrived on darkness, power and primal screams, Senn sang about “drowning in your blue eyes” during a song appropriately titled “Blue Eyes.”
Senn said her dad is a musician and serves as her number one inspiration. She said she also enjoys Taylor Swift, but doesn’t want to be put in that category.
She started learning guitar two years ago and developing her style. Senn describes it as “hippie, folksy, feel-good music.”
“I write my own songs,” Senn said. “I’ve always been more of a solo person. I’m kind of spontaneous.” She said her songs are usually about “relationships and junk.”
Senn said she had been looking forward to the Battle of the Bands since she heard about it after she moved to Manhattan last year. Tuesday was her first time performing. “I felt like go big or go home,” she said.
Since it served as her first performance, Senn didn’t have any rituals, but she did know one thing she’d do beforehand. “I’ll definitely pray,” Senn said. “I’ll do a nice big, fat prayer to Jesus.”
The other three bands, White, Conquering Your Gravity and FUMA, actually had more than one person and previous experiences with performance.
Sam Rozell, guitarist for Conquering Your Gravity, said the band formed during the summer and did many shows in the fall as preparation for the event.
Rozell said he gets a joy from playing the guitar, which he has played for seven years. “It’s a really good way to express myself,” he said. “It’s all I really know.”
Lead singer Ty Mares also functions as a guitarist, pianist and songwriter for the group. He said he started playing both instruments in the fifth or sixth grade.
“There’s a time when you’re performing when you get a high from it,” Mares said. “It’s perfection. Musicians crave it, I know I do.”
The Rezac Auditorium stage served as a chance for the bands to seek the performance high in front of more than 250 people.
Senn offered the most low-key performance, sitting in a chair near the edge of the stage with her guitar. She took a storyteller’s approach with a story preceding each song.
After Senn exited, friends came up to hug her and compliment the performance. Senn kept asking the same questions. Did she sound okay? Were her stories funny?
Senn said her first time performing was better than she thought. “I was really nervous at the audition,” she said. “For this, I was really relaxed.”
Conquering Your Gravity, whose members listed Coldplay and John Mayer among their influences, sought to get the crowd into their performance by telling the audience to clap, fist pump and sing.
Confetti was even thrown during the finale, “To The Moon and Back.” It’s also the band’s favorite song. “One of my many love songs for no one,” Mares said.
The song also represented the band’s big finale. Many bands have been broken up due to bitter in-fighting and solo aspirations. That’s not the case with this band; Mares is moving soon.
“Honestly, it was the perfect last show,” Mares said. “We rocked that. What better place to make your name than in front of your classmates?”
Mares and the rest of the band went out to watch FUMA, the last act and winner of the competition. FUMA’s self-described style is alternative syth-rock. Noah Schmidt said the band is inspired by family and friendship.
The judges’ score had all the bands within one point of each other. Although she didn’t win, Senn joined the rest of the performers in asserting her intent to continue in music. “This is what I plan to do for the rest of my life,” she said.