Federal Face-Off: Behind the Scenes

By Abigail Cloutier
Jambar Contributor

Neon lights and music flooded Westside Bowl on Feb. 7, where students and community members gathered to vote for the next musician to headline Federal Frenzy in April. 

The event featured five local musicians: Juliet, Fifth & Aurora, Nick Adduci, Very Good Friends and The Locals. 

Fifth & Aurora secured a guaranteed spot in the April 25 frenzy.

Juliet McCowin is a musician and full-time junior at Youngstown State University. McCowin, who majors in English and minors in music, was one of the only YSU students competing at Federal Frenzy Face-Off. 

Last year, McCowin tied with Black Wolf and the Thief to secure a spot in Federal Frenzy.

Johnny Medina, guitarist and vocalist for The Locals. Photo by Abigail Cloutier/The Jambar

“This year, since I have a band with me, the preparation was a little extra work,” McCowin said. 

She said she wanted to work on her stage presence as part of the competition. 

“I’m normally pretty confident with my vocals and my music, but trying to engage the audience is something that I need to work on,” McCowin said. “But I always feel really encouraged and supported when my family and friends are there.”

Though McCowin didn’t win the face-off for the second year in a row, she still enjoyed participating in both years.

“The face-off last year was really fun. Not just performing, but I got to hear a lot of local bands that I hadn’t heard before and listen to some that I was familiar with sing new songs,” McCowin said.

Ashlee Cook, a senior communication studies major and hospitality lead for Penguin Productions, was in charge of planning the face-off this year. 

“I did almost everything for it,” Cook said. “I had people who helped me for certain things, like my activities team helped me create the jars for voting and my talent team helped me pick the talent, but I did a lot of the outreach. I also booked the backline and stuff like that.”

The stage was set for the first act during Federal Face-Off. Photo by Abigail Cloutier/The Jambar

Cook worked with all the teams as well as completed scheduling for the banks and staffing and made sure everything worked on a technical level for the bands.

“We had to reach out to production to make sure that sound needs were OK so there’s no problems when running sound,” she said. “We also had to reach out to [Owner] Nate [Offerdahl] at Westside Bowl because he was the one hosting the event, so he had to be in the loop with everything as well.”

Every musician put extensive hours into preparing for the event, even though they realized they might not win. Shelby Olive, a teacher who moonlights as a musician, juggles rehearsals with her schedule.

“I’ve been doing lots of practices with my band. I’ve been practicing about once a week since we found out that we’d be doing this, reading through the setlist and running songs and trying new things,” Olive said.

Brandon Hetherington, guitarist for Juliet, Plays at the Federal Frenzy Face-Off Feb. 7. Photo by Abigail Cloutier/The Jambar

Though Olive later had to back out of performing at the face-off due to inclement weather, she stated she put in “too many hours to count” in preparing for the event. 

“If I had to narrow it down to per week, I’d say about four per week. Some of it is just me practicing on my own and some of it with my band,” she said.