One of my favorite things to do every month is go to First Fridays, where the shops stay open later, great pizza is served at the Greenbrier Valley Baking Company, and someone somewhere is playing music.
This month the downtown music scene exploded with creativity and new voices. I have never seen this many people performing in Lewisburg in one night. And one of the best parts about all the performances was that every musician was a teenager.
The first performance of the night was by Greenbrier East High School’s Second Block Rock, a class taught by Jim Allder where students are able to learn and perform songs and even create their own music. Second Block Rock consists of about 35 students in grades 10-12. Together they make a set list, rehearse, and perform throughout Greenbrier County.
Madison Withrow, 17, who has been a member of Second Block Rock for two years, said. “The green space is always fun to perform in, but I also really enjoyed playing at the Roller Derby.”
Withrow joined the class her sophomore year because she needed a class and thought performing was fun. In the class, she sings, plays the keyboard and guitar, and has even learned how to play the bass. She would describe Second Block Rock as “chaotic but fabulous.”
My favorite part about Second Block Rock is having the opportunity to perform with my friends,” Withrow said. “And I’m just so thankful for Mr. Allder because he gives us these opportunities to perform, which we otherwise might not have.”
The next performance came from a rather eclectic group of young ladies, known as Silent Islands. What started out as a random suggestion on New Year’s Eve soon became a brilliantly diverse band, consisting of Morgan Davidson, 16; Casielle Donahue, 16; Catie Flint, 17; Izzi Jasperse, 16; and Jackie Sizemore, 16.
Silent Islands’ unique sound is definitely influenced by their various tastes in music, ranging from jazz to alternative rock to heavy metal. “We try to incorporate all of our musical tastes into the music we play to make it fun for all of us,” said Jasperse. “Some of our biggest inspirations include Jack White, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Cure, and Joy Division.”
Their most recent original, “Hurricane,” shows just how thoughtful and clever this young band is in both the lyrics, which were written by Davidson, and the actual music, which was a group effort. “The song ‘Hurricane’ was inspired by the unpredictable nature of storms and is based on two conflicting forces: the gentle and the wild,” said Jasperse. “The verses are split between two vocalists and contrast can definitely be heard between their sounds.”
Silent Islands is currently working on writing a few more originals so they can record a small EP.
Quite possibly my favorite performance of the night was from The Bigbys, three guys with hair almost as long as their music careers. The youngest member, Jules Kessler, 15, has been playing piano for nine years and guitar for five. Jacob Spencer, 17, has played various kinds of music since he was five years old, but for The Bigbys he focuses on the drums. Last but not least, Will Weikle, 17, has been playing guitar and bass for about four years.
From the beginning, The Bigbys set themselves apart from the others by only having one original song with lyrics – the rest being strictly instrumental originals.
Inspired by artists like Victor Wooten, Julian Lage, John Bonham, Jojo Mayer, and Chris Adler. The Bigbys create a sound that Megan Lewis, 18, describes as “blues rock.” And when asked to describe the band in one word, Weikle said. “Fusion.”
All three members of The Bigbys plan to pursue music as a career. And even though the trio will be going separate ways at the end of summer, they’ve agreed to continue playing together when they can.
Closing the performances at the green space was Tyler Davidson, 18; Alex Herndon, 18; and Chance West, 18 also known as Vital Shock. The three friends decided to start playing together in fall 2013 and together they create a ‘punk meets metal meets hard rock band,’” according to Herndon.
“We”re very clean, but also in your face.” said Herndon. “Our biggest musical inspirations are the Foo Fighters, August Burns Red, System of a Down, and bands similar to them.”
Throughout the summer, Vital Shock will be playing gigs almost every weekend so if you didn’t hear them at First Fridays, you haven’t missed your chance. They also have plans to travel over the summer to Virginia Beach and Nashville to expose their music to more people.
While Davidson, Herndon, and West love to play music, they agree that for them it isn’t practical as a career. They would rather focus on music as an everyday hobby and just have it be a huge part in their lives.
“We would just like to say a huge thanks to Jim Allder, Alpha Music Inc., and, of course, our parents for everything because without them we wouldn’t be anything,” Herndon said.
Young artists like these continue to amaze me with their ability to pursue their musical passions, even in such a small area like the Greenbrier Valley, and to have fun doing so. Keep listening because this won”t be the last time you hear about any of these bands.
For more information about all these awesome bands, check out their Facebook pages: Second Block Rock at http://www.facebook.com/2ndBlockRock; Silent Islands at http://www.facebook.com/silentislands; The Bigbys at http://www.facebook.com/thebigbysband; and Vital Shock at http://www.facebook.com/VitalShockniphobia.