Biggest Mouth erupts with heart and soul

By Campus Editor

The soulful hip-hop duo ConSoul took first place and unleashed its feel-good energy, performing for the 421-person crowd at the 12th annual Biggest Mouth battle of the bands competition at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., on April 21.

ConSoul­­­­­—composed­ of Jina Ballenger, a sophomore cinema art + science major, and Shantel Cribbs, a junior theatre major, and accompanied by an eight-person band—won against the 11 other Biggest Mouth contestants.

Cribbs and Ballenger, who have performed together for about six months, said they draw on the audience’s spirited energy and each other’s chemistry to project “peace and love” through their vocals and contagious dance moves. 

“Having a great energy and then being able to do it with our crew [is] the most fulfilling part,” Ballenger said. 

As Biggest Mouth winners, ConSoul will open for Sir the Baptist at this year’s Manifest Urban Arts Festival on May 13. The duo also won $1,000 and various sponsored prizes.  

Indie-folk rock band Elk Walking took second place, winning $750. The band is fronted by Savanna Dickhut, a senior music major, and Julian Daniell, a 2015 music alumnus. They have played together for two years and as a full five-person band for six months. 

The band began its set with an upbeat rhythm and folky feel that transitioned into an indie-rock vibe feeding off the crowd’s pulse.

“If the crowd is energetic, then we are energetic,” Dickhut said. “We try to match [the audience’s] level and meet them halfway.” 

Zoofunkyou, a six-person jam band, won the audience choice award and $500 after transporting the Metro back to the ‘70s with its freeform rhythm and tempo.

Derek Dare, a senior audio arts & acoustics major and lead guitarist for the band, shocked the crowd by playing his guitar with his tongue and teeth while wearing a panda face mask.

“It was rewarding because a lot of the music majors are in it to play Biggest Mouth and Manifest, and I am on the other side of the campus in a live sound room in the basement tuning preamps and [other] live sound stuff,” Dare said.

Other performers included Momz, an upbeat soulful jazz band; Ace da Vinci & The Lighthouses, a hip-hop jazz band; solo acoustic artist Oku; Blaqrock, a hip-hop rock band; rhythmic hip-hop artist Fanaticus; Tupni, a three-person rap group; Ribz, a jazzy soulful band; The King of Mars, an indie rock band; and Glamour Hotline, a three-person all-girl punk rock band.

Vice President of Student Success Mark Kelly opened the night by pumping up the crowd with his signature “Hell Yeah” chant and performing a drum solo that echoed through the concert hall.

For the second consecutive year, the competition was hosted by Aaron Branch, a junior theatre major. His act included a parody of the “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” segment from “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in which he read tweets from the audience, mean or not, on stage.

The four judges, who voted on the first- and second-place winners, included Sharod Smith, founder of Biggest Mouth in 2004, owner of Elific Marketing & Management and current manager of Jamila Woods, who is featured in “Sunday Candy;” Colleen Mares, Chance the Rapper’s assistant for two years; Rollin Weary, a recording engineer from IV Lab Studios nominated as Record Producer of the Year at the 2013 Chicago Music Awards and whose work has been featured on MTV, WXRT and WGN; and Lizz Timpa, a senior business &

entrepreneurship major.

Ian Valiente, a senior business & entrepreneurship major and president of SPB, said this year’s judges looked for bands that were new, had good stage presence and a niche in the Chicago music industry. 

Jake Dagit, SPB’s director of event productions and a sophomore business & entrepreneurship major who ran Biggest Mouth last year, said the event felt more organized this year. He added that SPB pushed for a greater diversity of music genres this year.

“[A variety of genres] is something we were very conscious of when we went through and picked our artists,” Dagit said. “We wanted to make sure we were representing our artists at Columbia entirely.”

The approximately 60 bands that auditioned on March 3–5 had 90 seconds to perform, during which they were judged on originality, audience appeal, performance skills and musicality, Dagit said.

“It was exciting to see the absolute top tier of Columbia’s talent go head-to-head at the Metro,” Dagit said. “It is an amazing venue [with] such amazing acts [that performed].”