The first thing I noticed on entering Michelle Kim and Dave Menacher’s Columbus Plaza flat for our interview was that fact that two guitars and ukulele that lay next to the television. Michelle is the lead singer (and, apparently, tambourine player) of Ida Noise, one of the two Booth rock bands playing in the Battle of the Bands, while her fiancé Dave is a bassist on Kellogg’s rivaling ensemble, Rocket Pockets. Also joining us was Matt Bernstein, who plays keys in Ida Noise. Coincidentally, Matt’s cousin Leah is also a member of Rocket Pockets. Matt and Michelle are both graduating co-chairs of AudioBooth.
Matt and Michelle both played in bands last year, but in different ones. However, at the end of last year, they formed Ida Noise along with Nick Balay, Chris Liquin, Roi Kessler, John Chiulli and Ahmed Abdelsalam. They recently won the audition round among a set of very worthy competitors. The Invisible Hand, a band featuring Fernando Flores, Wyatt Lawyer, Jeremy Siegel, Humberto Aparicio and Chloe Ruiz-Funes, will also represent Booth at this year’s Battle of the Bands. Kellogg’s musical landscape is far more structured than Booth’s. Its same two competing bands have dominated the scene for years – Dave’s band, Rocket Pockets, focuses primarily on nineties rock, while Captains of Industry (Kellogg’s second entry) goes for a top 40 mixed with late sixties and early seventies sound. Dave joined his band last year after an intense audition process.
My favorite part of the afternoon was spent discussing what music meant to these student-musicians and how it has impacted their path at business school. Their musical journeys were all very different, despite having converged today. Matt and Michelle both came to music from years of parent-enforced music classes – 10 years of violin for Michelle and 3 years of piano for Matt. Dave, however, fell in love with music through guitar lessons at age 4.
At Booth, Michelle joined AudioBooth in the winter of her first year after a particularly brutal quarter and was reminded that there was a world beyond what you recruited for and the classes you were taking. Dave proudly noted that she always came back energized from rehearsals. Dave himself spends hours in rehearsals after his classes every week up in Evanston. “There are definitely times when I do not feel like practicing, but there are those rehearsals where the band just clicks and I’m so glad I’m doing this”, Dave exclaimed. In a similar vein, Matt noted that having a creative outlet in a very demanding graduate program was critical to his Booth experience. He cited last year’s Battle of the Bands as one of his top three memories at Booth – “Where else will an amateur musician get to play for a thousand people?” he quipped.
How do Michelle and Dave manage the tension from the all-important rivalry? Dave has banned all setlist talk – he believes in the integrity of the competition. They all have high hopes for this year’s performances. “We want it to be competitive, but it is still collaborative. We’re all passionate about music and want to put on a good show for everyone”, nods Matt. If the auditions were anything to go by, look forward to an incredible performance by all the bands – go buy your tickets now!