When it comes to playing music before a crowd, band class doesn’t count. Neither does a 30-person audience of family and friends.
For The Juice, a high school rock band in Ashland, a real audience can be found at the Battle of the Bands at Southern Boone County High School.
Before taking center stage in the school gymnasium in front of an audience of 100, the band’s three members huddle in a small corner of the empty band room to rehearse a few songs and tune their guitars.
Marley Magner, 14, strokes notes on his rhythm guitar with his right hand and turns the knobs on the guitar’s neck with the other. Lead singer Ian Vardell, 15, helps tune Marley’s guitar. Lucus Welch, the 15-year-old bass guitarist, is content to chat with friends.
When their instruments are tuned, the members swing the guitar straps across their shoulders and pack up their equipment. Ian puts the amp on his skateboard and wheels it across the hall to the gymnasium. The three musicians set their equipment next to the bleachers, plop onto an empty row and wait nervously for another band to finish playing.
The bleachers are packed with students and parents. A cluster of
students have crowded around another band and its shirtless drummer.
Tonight, though, The Juice is without a drummer — his mom made him quit.
Ian, Marley and Lucus exchange glances when the other band is finished. It’s their cue to set up on stage.
Ian rolls his amp across the dark gymnasium, flushed with a warm feeling of nervousness. Lucus and Marley coolly take their positions. Ian quickly grabs one of the guitar cords but plugs in into the wrong jack of the amp. The accident goes unnoticed until the band strikes up its first song.
Ian steps back in attempt to ease the feedback.
It doesn’t stop, but the noise doesn’t bother the crowd.
The students raise their arms in the air, and wave them back and forth to break the nervous sweat.
They may never make it big like their heroes, bands such as Stone Temple Pilots, Bob Marley and the Wailers and the Beatles.
But for 20 minutes, at least, it’s their time to bask in the floodlights..