Ellynn Mayo

Farmer’s Ball, the battle-of-the-bands held annually by KJHK, is what past KJ staff member Benji Bloom called the “staple of KJ.” When he found out how this year’s Farmer’s Ball would be formatted, Bloom said his reaction was, “I don’t fully understand what that means.”

There are three ways to “attend” the 2021 Farmer’s Ball. One is through Minecraft, where the audio of the stream will be syncing in a Minecraft server. Cole Billings, who is in charge of setting up the server and leading the building crew, said he has been working with multimedia staff member Max Indiveri to create audio and video recordings of some of the Farmer’s Ball bands.

 “We kind of left it open to each of the bands, whether they make their own or if they come in, but most of them decided to just come in and let us do the work for them,” Billings said. The logistics of a Minecraft server concert soon became apparent when the build team considered accessibility.

“We thought, we don’t really want to force all these bands to hop on this Minecraft world,” Billings said, “especially if they don’t have Minecraft.” So Billings came up with a second way to attend virtually: Youtube.

“You kind of want to see the band, see who’s performing,” Billings said. “So I think that’s more or less what we were focusing at least towards, like having the video and audio.”

The third way to tune in will be on the radio, so if Minecraft and YouTube aren’t optimal, listeners can turn their dials to 90.7 FM, KJHK, Lawrence on April 8th at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time.

“It’s like you’re doing eSports or something, but it’s a concert.” Billings said. Billings reported he could foresee some “hiccups,” but that his experience with KJ and as a Twitch streamer had prepared him for this undertaking.

This virtual battle of the bands is foreign to the previous live music director, Benji Bloom, who said he worked on live shows both at major venues, such as the Bottleneck and smaller performances at places like the Lied Center.

“There’d be a lot going on all at once and, you know, meetings every single day, talking about what we have in line for the week and whatnot,” Bloom said, “And it was a hectic job, but the best job I ever had in college.” Apart from daily activities, he helped coordinate the annual Farmer’s Ball pre-COVID-19.

“I have to give credit to the team that I worked with. Farmer’s Ball cannot be done with just one person,” Bloom said. “The initial process involved receiving submissions from bands all across Lawrence and Kansas City, listening to them, and breaking them down into a smaller number.”

After that, another listening session would occur with more KJHK staff. Votes would be sent in, semi-finalists selected, and that is when Bloom said the live performances would begin.

Bloom described the Farmer’s Ball as “an American Idol thing. It’s like you’re gonna go to Hollywood, but you know, you’re advancing into the finals for Farmer’s Ball, which is a really cool thing.” He said the event could get “pretty hectic” as it involved a lot of preparation, people and publicity.

Bloom said a previous Farmer’s Ball had a photo booth, tie-dyed t-shirts and a whole lot of stage blocking for the bands. “The preparation and the organization for having so many bands, and you have to talk to them to make sure everything is straight, they know their set times,” Bloom said, “and then to put that out into the public, it’s a lot of moving pieces.”

But at the end of the day, Bloom said, it all works out. And to those confused about how Farmer’s Ball will work, Billings said, “A lot of people are kind of surprised, but they’re not, not surprised because they’re like, we’re KJ. They kind of expected us to do something weird.”

Billings said he’s gotten questions about how the event will play out and has “tried to explain bits and pieces of it, but really the only way to explain it is just actually doing it.”

When we asked Bloom if he’d be attending, he said, “Absolutely, absolutely. How could I not? I love Farmer’s Ball.” So remember to watch, listen, or craft on April 8th at 7 p.m. alongside Bloom, Billings, and the rest of the KJHK crew.

KJHK 90.7 FM