A top 5 assignment this year

Talking with teens about music and playing in a band was deeply satisfying, especially as I was feeling heavy burnout from city politics.

Bring on the bands

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When you play in a high school rock band, it’s a struggle just to make it out of your parents’ basement.

But today, nine high school rock bands from across the state will have a chance to showcase their talents — and win free recording studio time — at the first Kiwanis Club of Manchester K Rocks! Battle of the Bands.

The battle, presented in collaboration with the Manchester Community Music School, kicks off at 2 p.m. at the Dana Center at St. Anselm College.

For some groups, it will be their largest audience ever.

“We’ve been preparing for the battle of the bands by playing the show over and over again constantly until we get nothing wrong, playing it exactly how we would perform,” said Chase Clark of the group Figure 8.

Dylan Kiely, of The Space Babies, said they’ve been “writing lots of new songs and practicing daily.”

“We’ve basically taken a day a few days before the battle of the bands and just gone over our set a couple of times, though honestly, the best preparation you can have for going out and playing a show is having played a bunch of shows before,” said Chris Preble of In The Summer. “That kind of experience is what we, as a band, are just starting to pick up on, and, because of that, are really getting the hang of going out and just playing for people.”

While some bands may have some pre-show jitters, Alex Hunton of Still Average, which has been playing together for a year and a half, said they’re not too worried. They’ll leave the practicing to the day of the event.

“We’ve always had a thing for slapping shows together last-minute, so we figured it would be best not to break tradition,” said Hunton.

This is the first battle of the bands Kiwanis Club of Manchester has held, but it’s not the first large production for the charitable organization. For 25 years, Kiwanis held a statewide cheerleading competition, but a desire to try something new led the group to a teen music event.

“We had a roundtable discussion about it and for the people who were interested in establishing a new project, it was the one suggestion everybody seemed to be interested in,” said Rob Batchelder, the co-chairman of K Rocks! “There’s an awful lot of attention on sports and a lot of venues where people can showcase their talent at sports but there aren’t as many things where people can show their musical talent.”

The groups will each have 20 minutes and will represent a range of styles, from indie rock to pop punk techno hardcore. Some of the bands, like Ladies First, from Hanover, have been playing together for four years, but other groups, like Streets Ahead, have been together for only a few months. A few of the groups have a list of cover songs they perform, but today’s event will be about unveiling original music.

Like most of the groups, Cara Bernard of Streets Ahead said everyone in her band pitches in on the songwriting.

“What usually happens is Matt will come up with the initial song, Miranda and Jeff will then jam with him until we find what we want it to sound like,” said Bernard. “When the instrumental is mostly done I then write the lyrics and melody. Overall, our song writing is a group effort.”

Thomas Slater of Ladies First said he and his band were inspired to enter the contest for the thrill of playing in front of a large group.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to perform because nothing gets us more of a rush then playing live in front of a large audience; the bigger, the better,” said Slater.

Kiwanis announced the contest by sending information to every high school in the state and working in collaboration with its affiliated high school group, Key Club.

Promoting the event isn’t the only way Key Club members will help, said Cindy Harrington, the event’s co-chairwoman. Student volunteers will collect tickets, wrangle bands and run concessions.

“They are really involved in all aspects of the event,” said Harrington. “There’s something for everyone, depending on their interest.”

Kiwanis is also getting help from some local professional bands. The Yellow Team and Still Well Angel are scheduled to perform. Still Well Angel, which has had its songs played on Rock 101, WGIR-FM, is also allowing the students to use their sound equipment.

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