COLUMBIA-Zora Serfozo’s bare feet pounded delicately against the still-warm concrete as she danced, her long skirt twirling out around her like the petals of a flower.
As the summer sun dropped and the warm winds picked up, Serfozo weaved among the crowd gathered behind her, pulling friends out to join in her musical revelry.
Serfozo belonged to a colorful mob of young people who took over the roof of a parking garage in downtown Columbia on Friday evening. For 3½ hours, they milled about, laughing, break dancing and even forming an impromptu human train. But it wasn’t mischief that moved them to gather there. It was performance art.
Four local youth bands, Graffiti Out Loud, Thunderclap Douglas and the 8-Track Groove, Headlights to Sunset, and The Blumes, met at Sixth and Cherry streets to play in the third annual Back to School Garage Band Bash. The drug- and alcohol-free event was organized by the Youth Community Coalition and Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Around 175 people attended the event, said Erin Carrillo, a city of Columbia recreation specialist and event organizer.
The Youth Community Coalition handed out glow necklaces and pamphlets at a table near the stage. Young fans came to the concert dressed in colorful clothing and adorned themselves with the glowing necklaces and freshly picked flowers. Many were dancing barefoot before the evening ended.
Although most attendees were teenagers, the show also drew adults and small children. Several families set up rows of camping chairs along the periphery of the crowd, and a few parents videotaped the performances. And, aside from minor technical issues and a last-minute lineup change, the show went off without a hitch.
Graffiti Out Loud
The show kicked off with a set from Graffiti Out Loud, a quartet of recent high school graduates who entertained the crowd with their eclectic performance and profanity-free rapping. The band’s MySpace Web site describes its music as “crunching psychedelic rap rock dripping with funk.”
For inspiration, band members say they look to early hip-hop groups and, even further, to the jazz greats. Back then, “music was made for music’s sake, and it wasn’t just about the image,” guitarist Paul Mossine said.
The band isn’t a moneymaking venture, but Graffiti Out Loud plans to record a demo this fall at Red Boots Studio. However, with college and full-time jobs looming, where things go from there is anyone’s guess.
“It’d be cool to tour,” Mossine said. The band also has ambitions to be signed by a record company, but members are wary of what that might mean.
“We love doing our own thing,” vocalist Zack Hutchinson said.
Above all, though, Graffiti Out Loud is a work in progress. “We’re listening to each other more. We’re learning to communicate,” drummer Jordan Smith said.
Thunderclap Douglas and the 8-Track Groove
Second up was Thunderclap Douglas and the 8-Track Groove, who cite “the funk of the universe” as a driving influence and bill themselves as an interactive, dance-friendly performance. Vocalist Tim Douglas encouraged audience members to clap hands, snap fingers, ring cowbells, and, above all, dance. The enigmatic Douglas played the set with a bright yellow flower tucked into his Afro and wore a T-shirt reading “Stop Genocide in Sudan.”
Like Graffiti Out Loud, the members of Thunderclap are newly-minted adults, but unlike their counterparts, they will soon disband. Three band members will head off to college this September, and the show marked their final performance. However, the end of Thunderclap draws no lengthy platitudes from the band.
“We’re all ready to move on,” said guitarist Noah Myers.
For Serfozo, a close friend of the band, the energetic show spoke to the heart of what Thunderclap was all about. “They are a live show band,” Serfozo said. “And I’ll at least have that memory.”
With the final encore played, Douglas’ parting words were equally succinct: “We love you guys,” he said, arms raised. “We’ve loved you for two years now.” The audience responded by repetitively chanting “Thank you! Thank you!” as the band packed up its gear for the last time.
Headlights to Sunset
The third act, Headlights to Sunset, brought the heaviest sounds of the evening. The youth music scene veterans were the evening’s only traditional punk rock performance with a high-energy display of jumping, bouncing and microphone twirling.
The members of Headlights have been together for 2½ years and have plans to record another album in several months, said vocalist Adam Matticker. “I hope everybody liked the show,” he added.
The final set was played by The Blumes, a new band performing its first live show. However, technical difficulties pushed the performance time back, and the band played their mainly instrumental set to a reduced and somewhat subdued audience.
As the concert drew to a close, Youth Community Coalition coordinator Becky Markt said she was pleased with the enthusiasm of the performers and the crowd. “They’re using their energies positively,” she said. “They’re using their creativity.”
The concert, put on by young people for young people, is keeping with Columbia’s tradition of supporting youth musical endeavors, said Phil Overeem, a language arts teacher at Hickman High School. He also runs the Academy of Rock, an extracurricular organization that networks teens interested in music.
“We stack up really well against similar communities,” Overeem said.
Many of those who performed at the show were involved with the academy at some point in their adolescent years. All in all, Overeem said, Columbia is “not a bad community to be in if you are in a teenage rock ‘n’ roll band.”
The young musicians seem to agree. “When you’re up there, you’re just part of the music,” Mossine said.
For the colorful young mob, twirling to the melodies like strange and delicate flowers, the music seemed to fulfill an emotional need as well. And that, for these young musicians, is just as essential.
People need to move their bodies instead of standing up against a wall, Mossine said.
Noah Myers said: “It’s the magic of dancing and making others dance.”