Chicago blues and soul septet Otis took the stage April 18 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., and delivered nothing but funk and energy from the first note to the last. Little did the band know, amid the blue lights and more than 700 Columbia students and supporters, that they would be named winner of a $3,000 cash prize.
Thirteen bands competed at Columbia’s annual Biggest Mouth music competition hosted by the Student Programming Board. First-place winner Otis took home a prize package from The Hatch Recording Studio along with the cash. Pop punk band Marina City walked away with second place and $1,500. Pete & Nick, a five-man jam folk band, was named audience choice and received $500.
“I think we were very confident going in,” said Taylor Streiff, senior arts, entertainment and media management major who plays keyboard for Otis. “Regardless of if we won or not, it was going to be a great show. We’re Otis; we’re a band and we just hope people love what we do, and tonight they really loved what we did.”
Along with Streiff, Otis is composed of six other performers on a multitude of instruments including trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass and drums and is fronted by a female vocalist.
Sarah Elabdi, Student Programming Board president, said the three winners were awarded a prize package from TopSpin Media, an online service that helps artists promote their work and earn money.
The three bands will perform at Manifest May 4 and MIC April 27 (refer to page 4 for more on MIC). Cash prizes come from SPB funding, Elabdi added. Last year, SPB took a “winner takes all” approach but wanted to be more inclusive this year, Elabdi said.
All performers had six minutes to prove themselves, and most bands managed to play two songs. She, a nine-female soul group, sang continuously, blending songs like the Black Eyed Peas’ “Shut Up” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Classic/indie rock band The Ivorys fit three songs into their set.
The competition was judged by Anthony Roberts, contributing writer for the Chicago Reader and VIBE; Bojan Jovanovic, agent at Windish Agency; and Jessie LaBelle, manager of Business Development at Music Dealers, Elabdi said.
Dom Brown and Orville Kline of the weekly Porn and Chicken dance party emceed the event and revved the crowd with free American Apparel T-shirts and raffle prizes, including gift cards to sandwich restaurant Pockets.
Otis plans to use its prize money to fund a summer tour and an EP, according to Streiff. But Ryan Alan, freshman arts, entertainment and media management major and lead singer of Marina City, said he hopes the cash will fund a trailer so the group can play more shows.
According to Alan, Biggest Mouth was the band’s second concert together. Its first was a sold-out show March 31 with Chicago rock group TheActionBlast at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St.
Alan said the members are thankful for the opportunities they had at Biggest Mouth.
“We knew there were going to be opportunities when we came out [to Biggest Mouth],” he said. “But the opportunities we’ve gotten so far are just incredible, all of the connections and just doing this.”
Pete Ford, junior music major and acoustic guitarist for Pete & Nick, said he hopes their prize covered the bar tab for their celebration after the competition but is thankful for the ability to perform at
Elabdi said she was excited to work with such talented musicians at the event.
“I definitely thought this was the best year we’ve ever seen,” she said. “[Biggest Mouth] was a lot of really different, really talented groups, so it was kind of anyone’s game. We’re really happy with how it turned out.”