It's long been a fact that most young musicians try to one-up each other by creating the next new sound—electronic country-core, post-ambient haiku rap, whatever it is that will help them stand out from the pack (which, ironically, plants them firmly in the middle of the pack). But this weekend, the Old Fire House is taking the other route by going back in time. On Friday, April 20, Redmond's long-running all-ages venue hosts the Classic Rock-a-Thon finals, featuring three local underage bands covering songs of yesteryear. Anything written between 1950 and 1990 is fair game.
Seventeen-year-old Andy Lawrence, who grew up listening to his parents' classic-rock record collection, thought up the idea. "It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing," he says. "It just seemed kind of obvious. A lot of [my friends] like classic rock too."
Some of Lawrence's favorite monsters of rock include "the regulars like Queen, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Ozzy," he says. And in the semifinals, bands covered everything from the Beatles and the Knack to Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. One band took on the 1973 hit "Radar Love" by Golden Earring.
"What was cool about it," says Christopher Cullen, the Old Fire House's program director, "is that the bands all portrayed a genuine love for classic music. Their performances were great. They weren't just playing the songs; they were putting on a show. They did the songs justice, especially for how old they are."
Over 100 kids and family members showed up to support all the artists, and of the half dozen or so bands that made it to the semifinals, only the three favorites advanced to this weekend's finals: Shotty, Rain Dogs, and the Breakers. Each will play about 20 minutes, and a panel of judges made up of local radio DJs, musicians, and folks from the Old Fire House will rate their performances. The winning band walks away with a whole setup of great gear.
"There's a vintage guitar and bass coming from Emerald City Guitars," says Cullen. "And I've got a vintage drum set from Seattle Drum School. They're all vintage, meaning most gear is probably from the '70s, but they're all in good condition, of course." They'll also get amps from Guitar Center in Kirkland, along with some other helpful odds and ends like drumsticks, strings, and gift certificates.
Most importantly, Lawrence notes, is that all the money raised will go to benefit the Old Fire House, a venue he's visited and volunteered at for years.
"The Old Fire House has helped me grow up, and I've watched others grow up around the Fire House, too," Lawrence says. "We've learned a lot about pretty much everything there." Including a healthy appreciation for the classics that preceded them.