By Kellen Murphy
Photos courtesy of the AHS Broadcast Club, Ethan Hicks, and Kelly Murphy
The clock came closer to 3:00 as I raced my truck to the high school with my friend and bandmate Kendal in the passenger seat. The backseat was occupied with a bag of cymbals, an amp head, and other miscellaneous gear that we were planning to use during the show. As we rounded the final corners towards the parking lot, Kendal’s bass case and amp cabinet slid in the bed of my truck, loudly thumping against the rear of the cab. We pulled into a spot, our over-caffeination fuelling our adrenaline, and we started the laborious task of unloading the heaps of gear I decided to bring.
As our other roadies pulled into the spots beside us, we started removing all of the stuff we’d need: a combo organ, our guitars, an electric piano, the cymbal bag, and Kendal’s extremely heavy amp cabinet. We got all of this to the door by the aux gym before we realized one crucial detail; the door was locked. We needed to get the supplies to Brodniak as quickly as possible so that we could do soundcheck, so we needed to find a way in. We set the stuff by the door and I ran around the corner towards the choir room so that we could open the door, but by the time I had ran back down to open the door, the door had already been opened for them. And so, after we lugged all of our gear to the Brodniak stage, it was time to set up.
We put the keyboards on the left of the stage, the drums in the center, and the guitar stuff on the right. Jacob Fry, the drummer for Trippin’ Upstairs, set up the extra cymbals how he wanted, and I arranged the two keyboards in a way to make it easy to play both the piano and organ at the same time. We dragged extra amps from the band and choir rooms and put them back on the play risers, with power cords and instrument cables stringing everywhere along the stage. And thus, it was time for a soundcheck. Each performer played their songs to test the volume of the PA system and the amplifiers, and now came to the dragging task of actually waiting for showtime.
We stayed at my house for a bit, goofing around and watching dumb YouTube videos in my living room. Within the group was Metanoia’s singer Hailey Clairidge, Metanoia’s bassist Kendal Spurgeon, Trippin’ Upstairs’ guitarist Rylan Yonkman, Trippin’ Upstairs’ drummer Jacob Fry, and our honorary roadies, Ashlyn Solowey, Peyton Simpson, and James Friedrichs. The show was set to start at 7:00, so we were tasked with killing time until then. Unfortunately for us, the time felt like it was moving at a glacial pace, with each minute feeling hours long. However, the clock eventually came to 6:30, and we decided to skedaddle back to the high school and wait in the auditorium.
As we pulled back into the same parking spots we had been in a mere 2 hours prior, it was beginning to dawn on me that perhaps a 16oz. Redbull and a caffeinated Ice were a good idea to consume before an event like this. With the clocks continuing to move at the speed of an injured snail and the knowledge that one of my bands would be opening for the night, I began panicking. My heart was beating out of my chest and I started wandering around the auditorium talking to audience members that I knew because if I wasn’t distracting myself with conversations, it felt as if I was about to go insane. By the time the clock came to about 7:50, Tenzin Stewart came to Rylan, Jacob, and myself to tell us to go backstage before the announcers began announcing. So, as the clock finally read 7:00, my dynamic trio walked backstage. It was finally showtime.
“How’s it going, everybody?” I said into the microphone after our introduction video concluded. I introduced myself and my bandmates and as is customary for a Trippin’ Upstairs show, the guitar pedals had some technical difficulties. Once we fixed it, I introduced our first song, titled ‘No Return’, and we started to play our heavy, punk ballad. I screamed a couple of times, Rylan had a guitar solo, and Jacob had a drum solo, which was a fairly recent addition to the song. As I transitioned from bass to keyboards Rylan started a bit of banter with the audience:
“As we change sets real quick, I’ll bring to your attention that this mic is too high for me.”
*Adjusts mic stand* “That’s better. You see my dad gets to be 6’, but whatever.”
Rylan truly was the comedian of the three of us. I plugged in the organ to the bass amp and switched on the piano, and we were finally ready for our second song, ‘Sleeping in the Snow’. With a slow, Pink Floyd vibe, deep lyrics, harmonies, two piano solos, an organ solo, and a guitar solo, it’s hard to dislike this song. And in seemingly no time at all, the song had ended. I said “thank you” into the mic before turning the amps off and unplugging the organ. The judges gave their feedback, and the three of us were on our way off of the stage for Kaisson’s performance.
We sat back in the crowd during the beginning of Kaisson’s performance, enjoying the banter she had to offer:
“What is up, everybody?”
“I’m going to play the first song in just a second here, but first for people that don’t know me, little intro spiel I prepared, I know most of you just came here to see Michael so I’ll keep this quick. I’m Kaisson, some of you may know me as Riley, but most of you probably know me as the kid you called gay in middle school. So guess what, now I’m gay in high school and I sing about it.”
[Laughter and applause]
As she ran through her set, Riley had the entire crowd engaged through large amounts of dancing on stage, crowd involvement, and comedy. Almost everyone in the room was standing and clapping along. She sang two songs, titled ‘Squid Boy’ and ‘Everything is Worse Now’, and the judges gave their feedback. Just like that, it was onto the next act: Shame.
Shame is a five-piece band consisting of Michael Hanrahan, Freddie DePaola, Isaac Briefer, Henry Ermi, and Will McClintock. They played two originals as well, titled Apex Predator and Lucifer’s Call. Between songs, Freddie and Will switched instruments, which really demonstrated the members’ versatility. For only being together for three weeks, they really showed a lot of skill and cooperation as a band. And just like the others before them, the judges gave feedback and it was on to the next band. It was time for me to get back on stage.
It was finally time for Metanoia. We strode onto the stage as our introduction video played, and Kendal and I grabbed our guitars from the rack on the side of the stage. Hailey then began to do her intro bit:
“Look, guys. I was in the crowd. Every single one of you looked like you were middle schoolers at a middle school dance.”
“No, that’s not a bad thing. You guys need to rock the island. When we’re playing, you gotta get up on your feet, and you gotta dance. I can see it, I can see it in your eyes that you can dance.”
Hailey almost got so caught up in her speech that she almost forgot to introduce our first song, ‘I’ll Miss Yous’. Kendal and I jumped in sync with each other for the first note of the song, and Henry started his drum solo. The song ended with a bass solo followed by a guitar solo, and just before my solo, I looked at the neck of my guitar and realized something: my B string broke. This was pretty upsetting considering the fact that the second half of the solo that I had written used the string quite a bit, but I prevailed and improvised for a bit. Then, before our second song, I called out to Freddie in the audience to ask if I could borrow his guitar. He said yes, so I ran over to grab it.
We started our second song, titled ‘The Self Doubt Song’, and the bass and guitar duet at the beginning was enhanced by Henry’s use of wind chimes. Hailey sang her lungs out and Henry had me worried that he was going to crack my ride cymbal. Then, we heard our feedback, and Hailey, Kendal and I headed back to our seats. Henry stayed on the drum throne, ready to bash the drums for the 5th and final act, Shameless.
The metal duo composed of Jonah Jeter and Henry Ermi was ready to end the competition with shouting vocals, high-energy guitar riffs, and thumping drums. The opening song, a cover of Megadeth’s ‘Holy Wars’, had long guitar solos, loud lyrics, and a clean guitar solo in the middle of the song. After the song concluded, Jonah took a moment to talk about different metal genres and teach the audience how to headbang properly. Then, he introduced their second and final song, ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. With time signatures changing seemingly every couple of measures, an ominous opening, dropped tuning, and heavy drums, the headbang lesson was definitely needed for the audience. When they finished, the audience cheered louder than it had been the entire night. The judges gave feedback again, and it was time for intermission.
For intermission, Jonah Uymayam and Brendan Hodgson of Young Hunks did an acoustic set consisting of four songs. It was their first-ever acoustic performance, and they did it perfectly. They opened with one of their most popular songs, ‘I Don’t Wanna’, and people in the crowd almost immediately pulled out their phone flashlights. Jonah sang and played rhythm guitar while Brendan played the Cajon. Then, they played another track from their album, called ‘I Wonder’. They prefaced this performance with the statement that they had never played this song live before, and that factor definitely didn’t show in the performance. As they continued to fill time, Brendan switched to lead guitar for a completely new song, called ‘White and Red’. And once they finished that one, the crowd demanded that they play a fourth song – so they did the only logical thing – they played a Kesha song. Brendan ran back and played on the drumset and Jonah stayed upfront with the electric guitar. They played the song ‘Die Young’, with the audience clapping along during the chorus and Jonah rapping the verses. And just like that, intermission was over, and it was time to release the results.
The members of every band were crammed backstage with little room to move, chatting quietly amongst ourselves. The judges were talking about winners and places, but neither Tenzin nor myself could hear them. Then I heard a distant mention of Shame, so I told the members so that they could go out on stage. Considering that they were the first band called upon, I figured they had gotten 3rd place, and then they called Kaisson onstage as runner-up. But after that, no one else was called upon. My emotions sank like the Titanic as this iceberg of a realization hit me: neither of my bands placed. I was so disappointed in myself and I immediately started blaming my own performance as the reason for the loss that myself and my bandmates had just experienced. Then it was just myself, Tenzin, Jonah Jeter, Rylan, and Jacob standing silently in a pitch-black room for an uncomfortably long amount of time.
I then walked out of the doors and back to my seat to watch Shame perform, as by this time I’d realized that they had gotten 1st. I sat back in my seat and talked to Ashlyn, my roadie girlfriend who’d been sitting beside me whenever I wasn’t on stage. She told me something that surprised me: we tied with Shame for 1st. Turns out that the judges couldn’t decide, and Shame only got 4% more of the audience vote than Metanoia, so we pretty much tied. Hailey went to talk to Mr. Thompson to see if we could get an encore song as well, and initially, she was turned down. We watched Shame do a cover of Nirvana’s cover of Leadbelly’s song ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’, and I went over to talk to my dad and my friend James. As I was talking about how we tied, I heard a surprising sentence come from onstage:
“Since it was so close, Metanoia, can you come on stage?” announcer Kayla Strandberg said into the microphone. The crowd cheered at just the mention of our name, and we were going to finish the show with a bang. Once I plugged in my loaner guitar from Freddie and got my mic working, I introduced our closing song.
“We’re going to play a song that a few of you might know just because of where we’re located. It’s by a band in Anacortes called the Lonely Forest, and we’re going to do a cover of a song called ‘We Sing In Time’, so if you know the words, sing in time with us.”
I gave Hailey her starting notes and we were thrust into the song. I sang the high backing vocals louder than ever, eventually shredding my voice like cheese. Henry played his heart out on the drums and Kendal kept our pace steady. We played our final chord, and the song was over. The announcers closed the evening, and I started moving gear off of the stage. I got the keyboards back out to the parking lot and we disassembled the piano stand. Once we got all of the gear back into the cars, we drove to Vagabond Station for dinner. The night concluded with fried chicken and conversations about the amazing event that we were just a part of.
Just as all good evenings should.
Rock the Island 2022:
Trippin’ Upstairs (Jacob Fry, Kellen Murphy, Rylan Yonkman)
- No Return
- Sleeping in the Snow
Kaisson (Riley Thomas)
- Squid Boy
- Everything is Worse Now
Shame (Isaac Briefer, Freddie DePaola, Henry Ermi, Michael Hanrahan, Will McClintock)
- Apex Predator
- Lucifer’s Call
Metanoia (Hailey Clairidge, Henry Ermi, Kellen Murphy, Kendal Spurgeon)
- I’ll Miss You’s
- The Self Doubt Song
Shameless (Henry Ermi, Jonah Jeter)
- Holy Wars
- Weapons of Mass Destruction
Young Hunks (Brendan Hodgson, Jonah Umayam)
- I Don’t Wanna
- I Wonder
- White and Red
- Die Young
Encore (Shame and Metanoia)
- Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
- We Sing In Time