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Niagara U hosting battle of high school bands

Niagara University will host five local bands tonight at its "Second Annual High School Rock Band Showcase" in the lower level of the Gallagher Center.

This year's competition will run from 8 to 11 p.m.

It will feature two North Tonawanda High School bands, Achilles Revival and Aqueous; Mudpuppet from Niagara Falls and Niagara Catholic high schools; Arsenic from Lewiston-Porter High School; and Cryptic Haze from Grand Island High School.

Jayson Clark, Achilles Revival's guitarist-vocalist, said his trio of juniors, all 17, is up to the challenge. The band plans to play four original songs: "Blind for Love," "Things We Used to Say," "The Truth" and "Angel City."

Together with bassist Derrek Drass and drummer Adam Van Hise, Clark said he likes his group's chances, though he realizes the competition will be tough.

"We're a classic rock, jazz and blues-type band that experiments a lot and produces original works," Clark said.

He said his band has been together about two years and performed locally in Soos' Cafe on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda on a monthly basis. The group recently played at his high school's Earth Day assembly and last year at the Ghostlight Theatre Company.

Clark said his favorite song the band will perform is "The Truth."

"I like it because it has an upbeat, jazzy sound," he said, "and gives each of us a chance to solo."

Admission to the battle is $5 and includes free pizza and wings. Everyone's welcome, although space is limited.

"We are featuring five of Western New York's best high school rock bands," said Fred Heuer, the university's assistant vice president for marketing. Prizes to the winner include a $300 certificate from Jackson Music of Grand Island and free studio recording time at GB Audio.

The competition will be judged by Bruce Wojick and Denny Pelczynski, the guitarist and drummer, respectively, from the popular local band Klear; and Glenn Bernardis, the bassist-vocalist with the Celtic rock band Stone Row, Heuer said.

"The bands will be judged on originality, appearance, technical merit, talent and audience response," Heuer said.

Brad Darrall, drummer for the North Tonawanda group Aqueous, said his band has been together for about a year-and-a-half and plays a lot of songs composed by other groups but also writes its own songs. Darrall said his group is a trio that includes Mike Gantzer on guitar and vocals, and Evan McPhaden on bass and vocals.

He describes his group as a "rock/jam style" band. The group has performed at the same venues as Achilles Revival, along with appearances at the Lewiston and North Tonawanda art festivals. Aqueous also played live on 107.7-FM, "The Lake."

Tonight, he said, his group will perform three original pieces: "Clear Night Skies," "Set Free" and "River," and also will cover Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times."


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