Eight bands competed to win Dixon’s first Battle of the Bands since 1977
The annual Dixon May Fair hosted the Johnny Ruiz Memorial Battle of the Bands, reintroducing the competition that last took place in 1977. The event, which was held on May 6, is named after Johnny Ruiz, a member of the Stevenson Bridge Band that won the Battle of the Bands in 1977. This year, eight bands from Northern California joined the competition, with hopes of winning the grand prize.
The first place winner was awarded with a $3,000 grand prize, automatic entry in the finals at the San Diego County Fair Battle of the Bands competition, a $2,000 travel stipend to compete in San Diego and a spot to perform in the California State Fair. Second place received $2,000 and third place earned $1,000.
This year’s winning band was They Went Ghost, a rock/reggae/alternative band from Vacaville. They Went Ghost formed three years ago and released their first full-length album at the end of last year. Dan Cagley, the drummer of the band, explained that he initially had hesitations about joining the competition due to the $100 submission fee. He did not expect the resulting outcome whatsoever, for the talent of the other bands exceeded their expectations.
“We were hoping we [would] at least place third. The competition was really steep. It was crazy. There were at least four or five other bands that I was really, really worried about and I’m surprised that some of them didn’t place. And that’s why it was a huge shock to us and we were super excited when we were just looking for third place, we won first place. Every band there was really polished,” Cagley said.
Most of the bands came from Sacramento, making They Went Ghost one of the most local bands, due to Vacaville’s closer proximity to Dixon. The band draws upon a variety of influences, including Deftones, Incubus, Minus the Bear, Matisyahu and Rebelution. They are known and praised for their intriguing stage presence, unique sound and skillfully crafted songs.
They Went Ghost plans to continue to make music, using the Dixon May Fair as a way to further their success. Cagley stated that the band is extremely excited to be able to compete in the San Diego County Fair’s Battle of the Bands.
“We are in the middle of recording a five song EP. Winning the $3,000 for the competition was huge,” Cagley said. “We’re going to record the two more songs that we need to finish the EP and press it and we’re really looking forward to tons of new merchandise, tons of new shirts and stickers, anything you can think of. Basically we didn’t split any of the money. It’s all going back to the band.”
Karen Spencer, publicist for the Dixon May Fair, explains the reasoning behind organizing a Battle of the Bands after almost three decades and the response from the public.
“Each year we try to do something different on that picnic lawn area and it’s a great place for music. We’ve tried ’80s rock and we’ve tried country western and because a lot of people here are great regional bands, that was an idea to try that again,” Spencer said.
Spencer emphasized that people at the fair and the fair administration were very pleased with the quality of the bands that performed. Second place was awarded to Trikome, an avant-garde/indie rock band from Auburn, and the third place winner was The Nickel Slots, an Americana band from Davis.
Gopika Mavalankar, a second-year international relations major, visited the Dixon May Fair and emphasized her enthusiasm over watching the bands that participated.
“I don’t really like bands that I don’t know but it was really cool seeing all the talent that Battle of the Bands had to offer,” Mavalankar said. “Everyone was so talented and it really was a well organized and put together show.”