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GAIN Music and DSTRCT bring back Battle of the Bands

A look at what this event and its presenters mean to the local music scene

The Battle of the Bands makes a triumphant return to Guelph after several years’ hiatus, and it’s going to be ‘bigger and badder than ever’, says Nik Wever, Director of Operations at GAIN Music and co-owner of DSTRCT, Guelph’s Premiere Live Music and Entertainment Venue.

2018’s Battle of the Bands is one of the ways GAIN Music and DSTRCT give a platform to rising musical talent in the region. The bands are paid to perform, even if they don’t win.

Top prizes include spots in 2019 GAIN and Kronik music festivals, a lyric video, recording, professional band photos, custom drum head, a podcast feature and other great prizes.

I took a moment aside with Wever to dig into some details of the newly revived Battle of the Bands.

Thanks for taking the time for me, Nik. I'm wondering when this all started and how it has evolved since.

We first hosted the Battle of the Bands at the end of 2013. It was originally going to be something we were going to run as a yearly event but post-competition we hosted our fourth annual GAIN Music and Arts festival that March, then a few months later we were opening DSTRCT and the battle got lost in the shuffle, so we haven't hosted one since.

What do you hope most that participants and audiences take away from about the Battle of the Bands in particular?

For the battle in particular I was looking to flesh out some new talent and tap into a bit of a younger audience. I first started going to live shows when I was 13 and know that there's a whole generation of kids in Guelph who have no idea where to go for live music. Or they don't know we host all-ages events. Most places downtown are bars and we feel a place like DSTRCT is important because there has to be somewhere for artists to go and do their art, whatever that may be.

Great point. People that age (in my experience) are busting with creativity and talent and energy.

Exactly. I didn't even live in Guelph but knew about the Trasheteria and knew they hosted live music. I'm in my thirties now, but I know that having a place like DSTRCT is important for both the community and the youth in it.

Any memorable moments from the last battle? What have the bands gone on to do since?

Oh for sure. One of the bands that participated in that battle are now touring the country, playing RiverFest Elora and are really making a name for themselves. Common Deer is their name. We also had Joel Saunders impress the judges so much that he ended up playing our festival that year and is still playing and teaching. He was a solo act who played fingerstyle which is just crazy to watch. And for a solo act to beat out bands was pretty surreal.

Is this the typical Battle of the Bands format? Or do you put your own twist on it?

We put a bit of a spin on it. Most battles of the bands don't make money and it has sort of tainted the appeal of a battle. We really try to put that we pay bands at the forefront so that bands know that in addition to the prizes they still get paid at every show. Even if they don't win. We sort of wanted to angle it how it’s done on TV shows as well. Celebrity judges and all. What I like about the judge aspect too is that a few of the judges are local promoters, bookers, industry people. So bands get exposure and chances to network. If they don't win they can still get connected and get feedback on their performance, etc.

What are you most looking forward to for this Battle?

I think what I’m most looking forward to is working with new bands and putting them on the Guelph stage. We actually ended up with such an overwhelming response that we split the battle into two events. So this one starting in May has fifteen bands competing and it is indie and rock bands primarily. The second battle will be in July and will be for the hard rock / punk and metal. We’re still taking applications for the second battle.

How should interested musicians apply?

Just send an email to with a link to tunes and socials.

Well, congratulations on the resurrection of this event, it sounds like an awesome opportunity for artists, and great entertainment for audiences!

Definitely! Tickets are on sale now at DSTRCT or on Eventbrite.

- by Katie Wilde/Guelph Arts Council


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