Woodside Band Foreign Soil Provides Hope for All-Ages Music
Each of its members is passionate about the music they create. They are among a group of young musicians on the Peninsula who, despite their talent, have few venues at which to share their skills. However, local events like the Grind Open Mic in Redwood City are providing hope that this could change.
Foreign Soil began with a post on Facebook. John McLucas, a drummer in the class of 2012, was looking for other musicians interested in playing progressive metal. This genre is an experimental and complex form of rock music, often defined by heavy guitar, bass, drums, and sometimes keyboard.
Senior Rocky Cagle, a guitarist and fan of the genre, noticed the post and was immediately interested.
“I guess it was somewhat of a miracle,” muses Cagle. That very day, in fact, a jam session with friends had led him to the realization that music was more than a hobby for him. Today he confidently declares, “I want to make music for fun and maybe even for the rest of my life.”
McLucas had been jamming with senior Max Moore, a bassist, for nearly a year. After one jam session with Cagle and his friend, fellow guitarist and Woodside Priory senior Arturo Ferrari, Foreign Soil was born.
Now the band plans to record the songs they have been writing, instrumental epics inspired by bands such as Dream Theater, an innovator of the progressive genre. McLucas notes, “it’s not radio music. We experiment with a lot of different sounds and musical concepts that a lot of people our age [don’t know about].” Other influences include Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Rush.
The band experiments with unusual tempos and timings, much like jazz. “It pushes the limits of music,” Cagle explains. He describes the songs as “organized improvisation.” When asked whether he is interested in adding a vocalist, he emphatically responds, “No. I think words [would] limit the message that we’re trying to portray.”
Moore says his own playing has improved during his time in the Woodside Jazz Band. He speaks highly of the school’s music department noting that “there’s a lot of talent in the Woodside music department, the jazz band, marching band. Being in the jazz band has really helped my playing and knowledge about music.”
The band made their debut performance in this year’s school talent show, on October 14 in Woodside’s Performing Arts Center. They performed last, to an audience eager for some rock and roll.
As the first notes floated from Cagle’s guitar, and McLucas’s cymbals chimed, the audience let out a collective cry of excitement. The lights went up to a enthusiastic cheer as Moore’s bass meshed perfectly with the building drums. Cagle’s guitar, soaked in reverb, was answered by Ferrari’s harmonics. McLucas’s drum solo elevated the sound, and as the band rejoined the song, Ferrari played an impressive solo. Foreign Soil left the audience impressed with their fresh sound, after a night dominated by the song and dance routines typical of high school talent shows.
After the success of their live debut, the band hopes to play at open mic nights in the area. One such open mic is held the second Thursday of every month at The Grind coffee bar in downtown Redwood City. It was started by local musician Zen Zenith, whose band, Please Do Not Fight, emcees the event. The Riekes Center For Human Enhancement, a community center in Menlo Park, provides the equipment, and the Grind provides the space. Zenith felt a strong need in the community for a music and youth-oriented event.
“There’s a lot of talent [in the area], a lot of kids and older people who play music, and there’s just not really anywhere for them to play,” says Zenith. “There’s not a lot of support for all-ages music, which typically means that your music scene is going to be limited to people who are playing [in] bars.”
Though he and his fellow organizers were unsure what to expect, the first open mic in February attracted more than eighty people, exceeding their expectations as well as The Grind’s capacity.
Shannon Agate, class of 2013, laments that, “in Redwood City itself, there isn’t very much going on. Kids have nowhere to go. If they go downtown, it’s considered loitering. Where are you supposed to go? I don’t think its just with the music…there’s just not a lot of things in this town.”
Agate recently began attending the Grind open mic. She states that, “open mic night at the Grind proved to me that there is definitely a lot of potential in this town.”
Zenith stresses the importance of all-ages music to a community. “[All-ages music venues] provide a safe space for people who are younger to get together and create something, and not just be aimlessly hanging out. It’s a great opportunity for people who want to seriously pursue music to develop their skills as musicians,” he argues.
But “all-ages” doesn’t mean only youth. Zenith hastens to add, “while there’s an emphasis on youth, because youth are the people that miss out when there’s no all-ages venues, I think it’s important to point out that all-ages should really mean [all ages], and benefits when it means that. It’s a good opportunity for people, younger and older, to be in the same place and enjoy something together, and I think it’s rare that that exists.”
Could Foreign Soil be part of an all-ages music rebirth in the Peninsula? Based on their powerful debut, it seems likely. For now, their main goal is, according to Cagle, “to get better, to improve. [Being a band] helps us learn. It’s been a very good leaning experience.”
Check out Foreign Soil on Facebook for the latest music and updates.
Find Open Mic Night at the Grind on Facebook and Twitter, or visit:www.openmicnight.tumblr.com
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