The walls tremble, and the floor shakes. Blue lights sweep across the crowd in broad circles. Wide black speakers burst with sound. Though it is still light outside - in fact, it's only noon - Nation, a Washington, D.C., nightclub and music venue, is packed.
This is "Exposure,” a two-day-long battle of the bands that showcases over 20 local punk and alternative bands. The grand prize: a recording contract with a local label. During the weekend of Feb. 26 and 27, hundreds of people pay $13 for a ticket to watch the competition, which includes Outsource and Entropy - two bands composed partially of Blair students.
For the members of Outsource and Entropy, "Exposure” is a rare opportunity not only to win a record deal but also to play for a huge crowd in a professional venue. They are not going to waste it.
Practice, practice, practice
Arriving at band practice after school on Feb. 8, juniors Jackson Vassighi and William Wiles make their way to the back of their friend's garage and into a tiny room barely large enough to fit their music equipment and the four teenagers who make up the punk rock band Outsource. The cinder-block walls are covered with quilts, which attempt to serve as makeshift sound insulation. Black wires snake across the floor, connecting guitars and microphones with numerous speakers and amplifiers crammed along one wall. Sophomore Omar Veras, a guitarist, and Wiles, a bass player, are forced to lean against the same small patch of wall, making sure not to accidentally smack each other with the necks of their instruments.
After fiddling with amplifiers and tuning guitars, the band is ready to play. Fingers fly over guitars, drumsticks twirl in midair and a broken ID improvising as a pick bangs out notes on the bass.
As the last notes of the song die down, the boys look exhausted, yet pleased. Grinning, Wiles turns to his friends and jokes, "Are you deaf yet?” The other band members smile and nod. This is not the first time their eardrums have suffered for their art, and it certainly will not be their last: After being invited to play in "Exposure,” Outsource is practicing harder than ever.
Entropy, the other Blair band, is also awaiting its debut at Nation at the end of the month. Senior Dominic d'Eustachio and sophomore Eve Gleichman have been practicing with their band mates in Entropy for six to eight hours at least three or four times a month in preparation for their biggest gig yet.
Neither Entropy nor Outsource has any expectation of winning. Instead, both bands view their involvement in "Exposure” as an unforgettable chance to play for a large crowd and perhaps develop a following. "We're not really expecting to win,” explains Gleichman. "We're just expecting to get our music out there.”
With the wealth of amplifiers and speakers that line the elevated stages in Nation, Gleichman should have no problem being heard.
Standing backstage with the rest of Entropy one act before they are scheduled to go on, Gleichman restlessly adjusts the guitar strap on her shoulder. "It's a little intimidating,” she admits.
The band that has just finished walks past. One of the members is carrying a battered cymbal. It is bent upside-down, and a large jagged piece is missing from the side. Gleichman points and laughs nervously.
After 20 long minutes of waiting, Entropy is up. They climb on stage with their equipment in tow. Stagehands frantically adjust amplifiers and weave through mazes of black cords. D'Eustachio tests his guitar and gazes out into the gathering crowd. This is it.
Over by the second stage of Nation, Outsource is awaiting its turn to perform. The members are grouped together in a darkened corner lit only by swirling red lights reflected off an overhead disco ball. They are surrounded by a bevy of friends and supporters: mothers, girlfriends, assorted "groupies.”
Newman spins his drumsticks and watches as Veras and Wiles hook arms and swing wildly, do-si-doing to the song blasting from the nearby speakers. Vassighi laughs as they collide, comparing his nerves to their apparent excitement and energy. "I haven't thrown up yet,” he jokes.
Finally, Outsource boards the smaller, more intimate stage and is ready to play.
The big moment
Twenty minutes earlier, Entropy has just begun its first song. Gleichman grasps the microphone in front of her with one hand, the other plucking out a beat on her guitar. Her voice erupts from the speakers, resounding off the walls. The original punk music pounds through the audience as they rock to the beat. D'Eustachio's shoulder-length curly brown hair sweeps across his face as his fingers fly nimbly across the guitar strings.
After five songs, Entropy is finished with its set, and Gleichman leans into the microphone one last time. "Thank you!” she yells. Amidst the shrieks and applause of the audience, "Entropy rocks!” and "Woo!” are heard in response.
As Entropy is finishing, Outsource is just beginning. Vassighi rests his black guitar against his thigh and screams into the microphone, "Wazzup?” Newman's drumsticks become a blur, and Outsource jumps into the first song of the set, eliciting whistles and shouts from the energetic crowd.
After a few songs, a small mosh pit forms, and frenzied audience members push each other into the tangle of arms and legs. On stage, Outsource is oblivious to the excitement; the band members are too focused on the music to notice.
Newman's face contorts with effort, his tongue jams up against his lower lip and his arms flail to the beat. Vassighi periodically moves over to join Veras or Wiles, singing into the same microphone and turning his back to the audience as he bangs out notes on his guitar.
When Outsource finishes up the last song, the audience explodes in applause. The members of Outsource gather their equipment and head off stage, worn out but flush with excitement and adrenaline.
Although neither band won, the members of Outsource and Entropy insist they found the experience enjoyable regardless. "I went up there, and I had fun,” Wiles says.
D'Eustachio is optimistic about the outcome. "They gave us an opportunity to play, which was great,” he says. "Maybe at some point, we can win one.”
Jody Pollock. Jody is a CAP senior (finally!) who is looking forward to another great year in Silver Chips. When she's not driving herself crazy with her impossibly busy schedule, she's singing with InToneNation and going to City at Peace practically every day of the week. Somehow … More »