Columbia College Chicago’s eighth annual Biggest Mouth competition at Metro Chicago on April 24 provided 12 exceptional student bands the opportunity to display their talents outside of the classroom.
The free show, hosted by the college's Student Programming Board, put bands Ajani, Lucid Lives, Ethan Griggs, LJ III, Khameelion, The Wild Family, The 151’s, Bullfights on Acid, Oby, Deer Emerson, Nick Astro and Woo Park up against the test of both the audience and a panel of judges.
Woo Park, the first place winner, won $1,000, studio time at Classick Studios, equipment package from Shure, a two-page feature in Highlight Magazine, a performance spot on the Manifest Mainstage May 16 and other prizes.
Kayla Knight, one of three singer and songwriters of hip-hop and neo-soul inspired Ajani, fed off the energy of the audience and space during the first set of the night.
“Just being on stage was so fun, when I first walked out there I saw all these people and it was unreal. I’ve been coming to Biggest Mouth for the past two years and I was like I just want to go up there and perform and then it finally happened,” Knight said.
From hosting the auditions to making sure all of the band’s equipment was ready on stage, SPB President Tanisha Pina’s favorite part about Biggest Mouth was the conceptual celebration during.
“Columbia fosters the type of energy that makes you want to do whatever you’re interested in,” Pina said. “You don’t want to just sit in the classroom.”
Mark Kelly, vice president of student affairs, reinforced Pina's statement.
“This is one of the great signature events at Columbia,” Kelly said. “The Metro is– I think of it as part of our campus. I don’t believe you could go to another college in this country and see such talented, on it music like you will here tonight.”
Pina also agreed that hosting Biggest Mouth at Metro Chicago adds an extra element to the performance equation.
“Not a lot of bands have played a venue this big before and the Metro is a pretty historic venue in Chicago so it’s kind of cool to see how excited they get,” Pina said.
Over 120 bands auditioned to perform at Biggest Mouth this year, which made being one of the 12 bands that much more special to Knight.
“We said we’re just going to audition and hope for the best and when we made it we were super excited because some of us are seniors so we just wanted to go all out and have fun, Knight said. “This is an awesome venue too so we just wanted to really celebrate by performing here.”
With approximately 890 people in attendance, Sam Stucky who is finishing up his first year studying film and made his way to the front of the stage by the second act believes the event lived up to all the prior hype.
“Biggest Mouth has been one of the most anticipated events of the year, I was definitely very excited,” Stucky said. “Leading up to the event, I didn’t know what to expect but coming here, I definitely won’t leave disappointed.”
Stucky also spoke graciously of Columbia and it's effort to commend student talent.
"Just hosting events like this that are free and being able to support other artists I think brings a lot of students together in a way where they can just go crazy for local bands,” Stucky said.
Despite the monetary and material awards at the end of the event, the process and commemoration of Columbia student music is what Biggest Mouth monumentalized.
Bands Khameelion was awarded the live-tweeted Audience Award of $500 and Deer Emerson came in second place winning $750, discounted studio time at Classick Studios, as well as equipment package from Shure.
The judges included tour marketing manager at Windish Agency Liz Pesnel, talent buyer at Metro Chicago Chadd Kline, promoter/talent buyer Sam Edgin and artist manager, founder of Biggest Mouth and event producer Sharod Smith.
“The secret of Columbia is to throw yourself out there," Kelly said. “If you’re sitting in your dorm room, if you’re just going to class and going home, then why are you at Columbia? But if you flip that, you take whatever discipline you’re in and you push it out into the world to get reactions, it’s hard and a little scary but that’s where resilience and talent is developed. And that’s what we have to insist our students do.”