May 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Four area high school bands compete in annual Rock Off


Special to The Gazette

A lucky year 13 is what organizers of the annual Tri-C High School Rock Off are expecting in 2009 at the popular battle of the bands event, which takes place weekends Jan. 9 through 31 at the House of Blues.

“Every year is lucky 13 with this thing,” laughed Barry Gabel, Live Nation senior vice president of marketing and promotions. “It never ceases to amaze me how impressive the bands are on a high school level and how sophisticated they actually are in their genre. They’ve listened to and grown up on stuff from Black Sabbath and Nickelback to Creed and the Talking Heads.

“Not only do they try to emulate that kind of sound they feel is their mentor music, but they put their own spin on it. And the best part about it is they come to the table with a lot of passion. It’s very cool in seeing it as a promoter who has been involved in the business for almost 30 years.”

Competing in this year’s Rock Off are four local bands: Connect the Sky from Medina High School, Blast Shields Up! from Cloverleaf High School and Our Lady of the Elms, Super Nimbus from Highland, Cloverleaf and Kenmore high schools, and Cheyne-Stokes from Cloverleaf High School.

Prior to last year’s Tri-C High School Rock Off, Gabel’s aforementioned list of influential bands probably wouldn’t have included The Talking Heads.

However, everything changed with 2008 Avon High School winning band Thee TV Oh Dees, which not only channeled a David Byrne-Talking Heads vibe, but also was decidedly different and more progressive sounding than the quintessential screamo and ska bands that seemingly dominate the Rock Off line-up.

“When we first started the event 13 years ago, we did hear a lot of speed metal and three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust music,” Gabel said. “And now I hear a lot more jam bands and jazz influences and stuff like the Joe Satrianis and the Dream Theaters. It champions the fact that we have a diversity of music.

“So now a band like the Thee TV Oh Dees is left of center from what might be quintessential of the Rock Off sound. It shows you that the kids can reach for a lot more sounds than just the Nickelback and traditional rock ’n’ roll stuff.”

This year’s competition features 66 bands, down from last year’s 72 groups, hoping to be one of 18 finalists competing at the Final Exam on Jan. 31 at the House of Blues.

The winning band receives $500 in cash and a $1,000 gift card from Sam Ash Music, as well the opportunity to perform on Tri-C cable television programs “Crooked River Groove” and the interview-unplugged show “Words & Music.”

The act also opens for a national act at the House of Blues, while its high school band fund receives a $200 donation.
New for this year’s winner will be free tickets to the April 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony taking place in Cleveland.

Also, MetroSync Studios will award the winning band five hours of free recording time, the second-place band with three hours and the third-place winner with one free hour.

Second place receives $200 in cash plus a $100 donation to their high school band fund, while third place receives $100 in cash.
In addition, second- and third-place bands will receive iPod docking stations.

The 18 finalists will record one song at MetroSync Studios for the Rock Off Volume 10 CD, which can be downloaded for free beginning Jan. 31 (, and receive a $25 Sam Ash gift card.

Considering the Rock Off is driven by a combustible and intoxicating cocktail of burgeoning musical talent, festering teenage angst and alluring stardom, it would appear as though the Rock Off could last indefinitely.

“The Rock Off has always celebrated the spirit of high school,” Gabel said. “Similar to outlets for high school sports or the debate club or high school chess team or whatever, this gives a chance to young musicians to foster their talent. So as long as there is music out there, there’s going to be a Rock Off because, you know, kids want to rock.”

Benson may be reached at

{ Connect the Sky }

Performing: 5 p.m. Jan. 9 at House of Blues

Members (age): Drummer Drew Virost (18), singer-guitarist Tyler Deming (17), guitarist Peter Shotwell (18) and bassist Eric Napier (17)

High school represented: Medina High School

Style: Indie alternative rock

Influences: The Maine, All Time Low, The Audition

Aspirations for Rock Off: “We’re all really looking forward to it,” Virost said. “We’re just really looking to have a good time out there for our fans.”

Tidbits: While he won’t divulge the song, Virost said the band is planning a surprise cover for its Rock Off set.

Songs to watch for: The slow and smooth “Money Kills” and the upbeat “Goner”

Odds of winning: “We’re hoping to all make it to the finals,” Virost said. “We’re all seniors this year; this is our last chance to do it.”

{ Blast Shields Up! }

Performing: 4 p.m. Jan. 24 at House of Blues

Members (age): Guitarist Eric O’Callaghan (17), vocalist Chelsea Patton (17), bassist Samuel Mooney (17), guitarist Michael Burris (17) and drummer Christopher Casey (17)
High schools represented: Cloverleaf High School and Our Lady of the Elms

Style: Indie alternative

Influences: The Shins and Modest Mouse

Aspirations for Rock Off: “For the Rock Off, it’s generally just an exposure thing for us because we have a fairly accessible brand of music, and it’s just we don’t have the means to put it in front of a lot of people,” O’Callaghan said. “So this is our way of doing that, I guess.”

Tidbits: While the band, which formed last February, enjoys playing cover songs at parties, it concentrates on original material for all venue gigs.

Songs to watch for: The catchy “Where The Wild Things Are” and the eclectic “Scare The Bear.”

Odds of winning: “I don’t know, I would say the odds are slightly in our favor just because we’re generally more original than most high school bands,” O’Callaghan said. “And I think that’ll provide a new sort of entry into the Rock Off.”

Web site:

{ Super Nimbus }

Performing: 4 p.m. Jan. 10 at House of Blues

Members (age): Singer-guitarist Jon D. Chadwell (18), guitarist Eric O’Callaghan (17), bassist Brock Ursem (18), drummer Drew Namoski (17) and saxophonist-keyboardist Jordan Nassos (15)

High schools represented: Highland High School, Cloverleaf High School and Kenmore High School

Style: Indie rock

Influences: Bright Eyes and Kings of Leon

Aspirations for Rock Off: “Obviously I’d like to advance to the finals,” Chadwell said. “Last year as a member with (Rock Off band) Loser’s Day Parade, we didn’t do that. So I’d like to get our name out there and have some fun with it. It’s always a good experience. It’s really cool to play at the House of Blues.”

Tidbits: Chadwell said Super Nimbus will more than likely kick out a Wolf Parade cover during its upcoming Rock Off show.

Songs to watch for: The mellow “Smoking Kills Kids” and the rocking “Sexy Boy-Toy Stage Diver.”

Odds of winning: “I don’t know, because I know my friend’s band Blast Shields Up!, and they’re really good,” Chadwell said. “So I would say maybe a 33 percent chance. I’m really just throwing out a random number. I have no idea. I haven’t really heard any of the other bands.”

{ Cheyne-Stokes }

Performing: 5 p.m. Jan. 16 at House of Blues

Members (age): Drummer Kyle Tresch (15), guitarist Ray Flanagan (15), singer Josh Mewhinney (16), bassist Garrett Tresch (14) and guitarist Mike Biegel (15)

High schools represented: Cloverleaf High School

Style: Old-school metal

Influences: Metallica, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater and Rush

Aspirations for Rock Off: “We’re excited,” Mewhinney said. “It was a great experience last year and hopefully it will be again. Last year was our first year, and we made it to the finals, which is the Top 18 bands. It was a great experience. So this year we’re just in it to have fun. I think we definitely have a better idea of what it’s all about and whatever the outcome, the most important thing is it’s for the fun.”

Tidbits: The group feels as though it has honed its performance skills since last year’s Rock Off.

Songs to watch for: The upbeat “Watch Your Step” and the progressive “Human Mind”

Odds of winning: “It’s hard to say, but I think we have a pretty good chance because of our experience from last year,” Mewhinney said. “I think we have a better idea of what we’re doing this year.”