Five local groups gear up for annual Battle of the Bands

Ranging from blues to pop, students and their bands compete for the chance to open for Bullstock this year. ORACLE PHOTO

Local bands look all over the Tampa area for places to perform and get their name out there. For many, a music festival appearance is the break they’ve been looking for. 

The two winners of the Battle of the Bands will just so happen to get that opportunity when they open Bullstock, USF’s music festival at the end of USF Week April 13-17.

On March 10 at 7 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater, the USF Campus Activities Board will host its annual Battle of the Bands.

Julia Coenen, a senior majoring in health sciences, is the special events director for the Campus Activities Board and in charge of running the competition.

“This event is a local band competition for bands that have at least some students currently at USF, so each band will have a certain ratio of USF students,” Coenen said. “The bands will perform three songs in a 15-minute set.”

Two bands will be chosen to open at Bullstock by whichever bands win the Judges Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award, according to Coenen.

Five bands will be competing: Bayside Blues, Casedilla, Rohna, The High Ground, and Treis and Friends.

Bayside Blues is a blues rock ‘n’ roll band composed of five men, two of which attend USF.

Miguel Mockabee, the lead guitarist, is a freshman majoring in psychology, and Ryan Walton, the drummer, is a freshman majoring in jazz.

The rest of the band is composed of bassist Josiah Lopez, singer Nateo Gonzalez and Connor McNeely, the rhythm guitarist.

Mockabee said the band has been together about two months, and their origins are unique.

“I met Connor at a local boba house and we jammed together,” he said. “I contacted the drummer by sending him a [direct message] and contacted the bassist because I knew him prior. Then we met up with the singer at the boba house as well as at a later time on a random occurrence.”

The band is taking part in the battle because they wish to gain more traction.

“We entered because we wanted to gain publicity at USF and around the area,” Mockabee said. “To play at Bullstock would be the golden ticket for us.”

He also said the band plans to perform one cover and two originals songs.

Casedilla is a solo singer, Casey Cereceda, a senior majoring in English, accompanied by a band as he performs live shows.

Cereceda used to be in a different band and used Casedilla as a side project. However, he said when his other band ended, Casedilla became his main priority.

He now switches between his solo act and playing with his band, but prefers to be with his band for big shows and performances like Battle of the Bands.

The band is described as having an indie sound, and the other band members both attend USF. The drummer, Gillian Olortegui, is a sophomore majoring in international studies, and the bassist, Giovanni Agosto, is a sophomore majoring in economics.

Cereceda is looking forward to performing on Tuesday.

“I had gone to the Battle of the Bands last year and had been wanting to enter it for a while now,” he said. “I’ve played at a couple festivals already, but never the main stage. This is a good chance to get in front of people to play, and winning it would be a good chance to play on a main stage.”

This is not Cereceda’s first time performing in front of a USF audience, as he played at the talent showcase last year. He said he was blown away by that stage and the attendance of the event, so he is looking forward to this upcoming performance.

Rohna is composed of four members: Austin Burdi, Luca Canalungo, Nick Rovello and Andres Hernandez. 

Burdi is a guitarist and a USF junior majoring in information studies, Canalungo is the drummer and does vocals, Rovello is a guitarist and also does vocals and Hernandez is the bassist as well as vocals and is a fourth-year psychology major at USF.

The four band members all attended Eastlake High School in Tarpon Springs and, after meeting each other, formed the band.

“We have all known each other since high school, and  we met through going to local punk shows together,” Hernandez said. “It started with Nick and Austin jamming together, then I joined, and we played together under a different band name. Then we had Luca start playing drums, and we went through a year of just writing.”

Rohna released a single in July 2019, and its first album dropped January of this year.

The band is used to performing shows but are looking to grow their popularity throughout the USF community.

“We are always playing, and have done a bit of touring, but since the album came out we have wanted to play more. This is a big platform and getting to play on a big stage is the most optimal way to play,” Hernandez said.

The group, which labels their sound as a mixture of rock genres and indie style, are looking forward to the opportunity the Battle of the Bands gives, since they have had the competition in their sights for a while.

“[It’s] nice to finally pursue something that had been a goal for a while,” Revello said. “The goal of the band is to reach new heights and go to places we have had no connections to and make those relationships in the music community.”

The High Ground is a rock band also competing for the opening act gig.

The group formed in summer 2017 and consists of two USF students and two others who go to other Florida colleges.

Andrew Parker, the singer, is a USF freshman majoring in marketing in sports and entertainment, and the other USF freshman is Matthew Brown, who is majoring in interdisciplinary social sciences.

Matthew’s brother, Jack Brown, is the guitarist, and he is a senior at FSU majoring in editing, writing and media. Dillon Smith is the drummer and a sophomore majoring in music tech and production at UNF.

The band is excited to perform in the competition and hope to earn the opening act spot at Bullstock.

“Both Andrew and I went to Bullstock last year as seniors in high school,” Matthew said. “We really enjoyed it, and the event had a good turnout, so we kept an eye out for auditions.”

This will be their first performance in Tampa, as the band originates from the Orlando area.

Parker is looking forward to taking part in this event, and hopes USF students enjoy it, too.

“It is a good opportunity to see the talent there is at USF, and it is a cool thing to come out and watch live music,” he said.

The final band performing in the battle is Treis and Friends. This band is composed of Treis Heitsch, the lead vocalist and saxophone player, bassist Alex Canon, drummer Raf Castro and vocalist Amaira McGee.

Heitsch is a recent graduate of USF, and Castro and McGee are currently juniors.

The band has been together for about a year.

“I would consider our music to be dance and pop influenced,” Heitsch said. “We have been playing under our band name for about two years, but this particular group has been performing together about a year.”

With the majority of the band members being USF students at some point, it is no surprise the band’s origins are at the university.

“We have all met through other USF events,” Heitsch said. “We met Raf at the last Battle of the Bands and Amaira through Bulls Radio.”

Treis and Friends has been fortunate enough to get gigs around Tampa, but it aims to reach the USF students as a future audience.

We get to play a lot, but one of the big things we are trying to do by doing this is trying to get the attention of more USF students since it is a big population,” Heitsch said. “We want to meet and expose our music to those around campus.”

The acts will be judged by three people.

“The judges are Nick Wilson, from Sick Hot (the band won last year), Paul Reller, from the college of music and associate professor of composition, and Calvin Falwell, a professor at the honors college with classes focusing on music studies, and he is also in the Sarasota Orchestra,” Coenen said.

The three men will award the Judge’s Choice Award, but the People’s Choice Award will be determined by the audience themselves.

How that is going to work is at the end of the night we are going to post a link that is a survey, and attendees can vote on it and the band with the most votes will win People’s Choice,” Coenen said.

The link to the People’s Choice survey will be up at the end of all the sets, and after the judges deliberate, all the awards will be announced.

Anyone can attend the event, whether they are a current USF student or not. There will be free pizza and drinks for all attendees. 

Coenen encourages all students to come to the event to enjoy live music from local bands.This is a really exciting event,” she said. “It’s going to be a very fun, low-key event that is not super hectic, so you can come out with friends and meet new people while enjoying some live music.”