This September, Patrick James Clark, a third-year popular music studies student took the stage at The Spoke, ready for his act. Except, he wasn’t the headliner. It was another Wednesday night for Rick McGhie. The room was packed, with students lined up out the door.
It was then that Clark realized the scope of the community surrounding Rick McGhie, and he sought to build that same community around all of Western University’s student musicians. Having already been approached by The Spoke in the summer for a regular Battle of the Bands, Clark realized the potential of the event that night with Rick.
Over the summer, Clark and a few of his team members met with The Spoke manager Ben Lollar, and together, they hashed out their ideas for the battle. Initially, Clark figured he would just host. It was only after taking stock of his position in Western's music community that he realized he would be able to program it as well.
This sort of regularly programmed battle is a first for The Spoke. Previously there had only been the occasional battle, like the USC Battle of the Bands with a larger lineup. Here, the lineup is smaller but more consistent. Clark notes, however, that their battles are already evolving.
“We wanted to start out with one versus one, king of the hill style, but we found that we could program a lot more of the night with a fuller bill,” says Clark. It stands to reason that the more people scheduled for the night means more variety, and hopefully bigger crowds.
Clark introduces each act, and they are allotted a thirty-minute set. Afterwards, a panel decides the winner. He’s looking to build towards a three-to four-act bill. That means longer nights, more variety and possibly more battles.
September’s battle featured Megan Levine, who Clark had met at a songwriter’s circle last year, and John Muirhead, another friend of his. Although there is only one night to go on, Clark is hopeful it will be a continuous success.
"Obviously a Tuesday night is not going to be the most popular at any establishment, but the crowd was really great,” says Clark. “People came out to see the artist specifically, and people stayed who didn’t know the event was happening, which I think is the goal.”
While Clark has plenty of friends in Western’s music community, he says he is still hearing from plenty of new artists he had never heard of before. He credits this to Western’s tight-knit group of musicians. According to Clark, Western’s music scene creates an environment where the competition between acts is lessened; everyone tries to be more collaborative and helpful with each other.
“I think the nature of how busy this community is allows you to help each other and makes you better friends,” says Clark.
Clark encourages anyone interested to reach out to him, as he aims to make the events as inclusive as possible with different styles, genres, solos, bands and instruments. The more that apply, the bigger the battles will get: hopefully, many of these acts will find new fans along the way.
The next Battle of the Bands is on Oct. 24, 2017 at 8 p.m. Anyone interested in playing in a battle can email Patrick at email@example.com