All day on Saturday April 14, students, faculty and local bands came together to play the fourth annual Total Backstage Access in the Fine Arts Center.I went to TBA for two bands and two bands only: DownPlay and Ambulia. Truth is, they are the only acts I showed up to see. I heard a few of them on the radio, but only snippets.
DownPlay started to perform shortly after 2 p.m. to a diverse crowd. There were probably two punk and emo kids, and the DownPlay “groupies.” One girl had a head full of dreads and a there was a guy with numerous tattoos and both ears fully pierced. These people are metal people.
“There wasn’t a lot of people, I was kind of bummed. I didn’t really get into it,” said vocalist CJ.
The members that make up DownPlay prove that metal isn’t just a genre of music, it’s a lifestyle. On stage these boys just breathe metal.
CJ’s voice sounds brutal, raw, deep and dark. Sadly, the loud sound of the instrumentals overpowered his voice, which sometimes was hard to hear. I think possibly because there was no time for the TBA crew to do a sound check.
Josh, who plays lead guitar, has the whole metal package. He plays really fast, has a long hair covered in a bandana, a beard, along with a number of facial piercings. He dresses in traditional metal garb like cut off cameo pants and a t-shirt with cut off sleeves. He is the stereotypical metal head.
Chris is always fooling around with his bass guitar. He often hops around stage making funny faces pretending his bass is a machine gun or plays it over his head slapping his bass strings and messing with his distortion pedals making some crazy sounds.
Lucien, on rhythm guitar, looks like some type of human windmill. As you watch him circle head bang, his hair whirls around like the thunderous blades of a helicopter propeller blowing you away.
Fred gets completely consumed by the music. His demeanor is great, his facial expressions are great, like when he grits his teeth like sadistic smile and menacingly sticks out his tongue as he pounds on his drums and stomps away on his double bass pedals.
DownPlay played a number of original songs, along with some covers by metal legends such as Tool, the Deftones and 40 Below Summer.
One Castleton student became an instant fan of DownPlay.
“These guys rock. You wouldn’t happen to have them on your iTunes?” asked senior Steve Hartmann.
It was then Ambulia’s big debut to the world. As I watched the band practice they were full of nervous energy. Julian Defelice and Tom Hutner excitedly talked to me about the line up for their set at 8 p.m. that night.
“We’re playing some of people’s favorites of the album, some new songs and one called “Mr. Frederick the Olive Farmer,” Defelice said jokingly.
On stage Ambulia paints an interesting and unique picture. They are a blend of hip-hop, punk with techno and metal influences. The sound is amazing and the look different.
Defelice looked like a 1930s street musician. He wore a gray fedora hat with matching pants, an old stripped button up shirt and suspenders. His guitar playing was fast and loud. His voice was raw, emotional and sometimes he even screamed, not typical Defelice, but good nonetheless.
Hutner looked like a punk kid who had slept in his car for three days before the show, but he made us all step back as he starting spitting rhymes like M&Ms. Hutner also rocked out hard on his guitar.
Tennis racket player Shawn Dayton got many laughs as he slammed away on the racket and danced like a robot. He was also dressed like a 1980s acid rocker in tight jeans with holes in the knee, a cameo AC/DC shirt, chains, leather biker gloves, spikes and black shades.
Billy Comstock, bassist for the band Twiddle, was not that impressed with the performance.
“I like Julian as a musician, but once again I think he was unable to match the quality of the studio recorded live,” said Comstock.