By Nicole Hennessy
To play a “real” stage at a downtown venue rather than a cramped gym at a high school dance is an opportunity Live Nation and Cuyahoga Community College have been providing to young musicians for 17 years.
This year, the Tri-C High School Rock Off, which began Jan. 11, is almost over, but not before one last competition: The Final Exam.
Frank Imhoff, the director of special events for Live Nation, has seen 110 Final Exams throughout his career. He says working with the kids keeps him “tuned in to what’s trending, what’s cool, what’s new.”
He tries to help them get the most out of their experience. And while some kids just want to be in a band, if others are interested in learning the business side of music, he’s happy to take the time to teach them everything from booking a gig to getting a demo heard.
Contestants “will call or text or Facebook at all hours of the day and night throughout the year … and mostly at times when they should be in bed or in school,” Imhoff said.
Lumpia, which includes students from St. Edward High School, is comprised of three brothers, John Paul, Patrick (PJ) and Max Peralta.
Half Filipino on their dad’s side, a friend suggested they take the name of a Filipino food similar to an egg roll (pronounced loompia), and that’s how they got their name.
For the Peralta boys, playing in a band together has been a unifying experience, something that brings them constantly closer together.
Plus, Patrick said that being a member of a band in high school teaches initiative, responsibility and determination.
“Unlike many other activities in high school, it is something that is completely up to you and your bandmates. You are completely responsible to practice music, communicate with venues, sell tickets, promote yourself and deal with any and all issues that may arise in the time leading up to a gig. If you don’t follow through on any of these, it will only hurt your band.”
Practicing for the finals, John Paul said what he and his brothers are focusing on most is playing covers that sound like they’re being played by Lumpia, rather than just any band.
Having tackled Radiohead and The Black Keys already, they’re looking for something new to play. Actually, The Black Keys come up often in reference to influences.
Already looking ahead, Lumpia hopes to play Peabody’s concert club in the near future, a rite of passage for any Northeast Ohio band.
Another band that listed The Black Keys as an influence is Pluto Reinstatement Committee. A nationally successful Akron duo, The Black Keys have managed to go mainstream with a grungy blues sound normally reserved for fans of the genre, and, for young people, it’s inspiring to see such talent come from so close to home.
Though he enjoys hearing them, Patrick said, “There is a much deeper satisfaction in playing your own music, as opposed to simply listening to it.”
At the finals, the winning band will receive $1,000 cash and $200 for their high school music program. Second place will receive $250 cash and $100 for their high school music program, and third place will receive $150 cash.
Also, the winning band will have the opportunity to open for a Live Nation or House of Blues concert, as well as the opportunity to make an appearance on Tri-C’s cable program Crooked River Groove, which will result in a professional videotape and recording.
Yet another incentive to practice as hard as possible, the winning band will also be featured on the three-time Emmy Award-winning Tri-C television program Words & Music.
Q & A with Mike Avdey from Pluto Reinstatement Committee