Teens compete in LouFest’s Battle of the Bands

Dubb Nubb, a band created by twin sisters Delia (left) and Hannah Rainey (middle), accompanied by older sister Amanda Rainey (right), perform at LouFest last year.

BY MIA KWESKIN, Junior, Parkway Central

It’s a chance for musicians to rock their hearts out, a place for music lovers to gather and enjoy the show and an opportunity for a high school band to make their big break.  LouFest — the annual music festival in Forest Park — is bringing back its High School Battle of the Bands for a second year.

“Last year was the first competition, and we developed it because we want LouFest to have a positive impact on every part of the St. Louis music scene,” said LouFest founder Brian Cohen. “The one group we weren’t including was young musicians—teenagers who are in really good bands but have no opportunity to play high-profile events.  So it’s been a perfect fit.”

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Anat Cohen at The Sheldon

Cohen grew up in Abilene, Texas, a small town with a Jewish community of about 20 families. A documentary filmmaker by trade, Cohen moved from Austin, Texas to St. Louis nine years ago to teach at Washington University. Austin’s vibrant music scene, including its Austin City Limits music festival, was an inspiration for Cohen to create LouFest. With the help of several others, the inaugural LouFest took place in 2010.  

In 2011, the festival added a High School Battle of the Bands. A panel of judges selects 12 bands to be finalists from the applications received. Those bands are split into two groups that battle each other over two nights.  Judges select six overall winners who each get to play a 30-minute set at LouFest.  

“The bands are usually a wide mix of everything—rock, folk, electronic—and the musicians are diverse, in terms of their age and where they come from. Last year’s winners ranged in age from 13 to 19 and came from schools like Parkway West, Ladue and all the way out to Oakville Middle School,” Cohen said.

One of last year’s winners was the folk band “Dubb Nubb” founded by twin sisters Delia and Hannah Rainey, both Ladue High School graduates, now finishing their freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  For the young and aspiring musicians the LouFest High School Battle of the Bands offered the perfect opportunity.

“It’s really important to start this process young, because you can only get better and better the more you write and play. I had no idea that by my senior year of high school I would be playing a major music festival and that we would be nominated for Best Folk Band of 2011 in St. Louis,” Delia said.  “Making music is all about making other people happy; it’s extremely rewarding. LouFest was an amazing opportunity to get our music out there for people who would have never known about us.”

Delia said she particularly enjoyed the atmosphere of both Off Broadway, where the Battle of the Bands takes place, as well as LouFest’s outdoor stage in Forest Park.

“[Off Broadway] is truly is a gem of the St. Louis music scene. It is such a pleasure to play there because of the amazing sound system and downtown atmosphere,” Delia said.  “The outdoor stage [at LouFest] was so spacious, and we just felt like a real big deal, if just for that moment.  It’s very relaxed, like being on vacation in your own hometown.”