Kentavius Takes the Stage First Night
By Matthew Pugh
In a basement adorned with twinkle lights, plastic palm trees, a faded American flag and amplifiers, Annapolis-based band Kentavius switches on to practice some tunes.
It is the night before their first major Baltimore gig, and this teenage, scruffy-haired quintet is squeezing every minute out of rehearsal before their curfew is up.
Bassist Nick Welker and percussionist Ben Bays, both 15, are sophomores at Annapolis High School. Lead vocalist Danny Jauregui, drummer Winship Wheatley and guitarist Joel Bays, all 18, are 2003 Annapolis grads.
Though Kentavius is young and admittedly plagued by Attention Deficit Disorder they are not worried about performing at a venue for adults.
Our playing will make people forget about our age, said a fidgety Wheatley.
Age indeed hasnt seemed a problem. Kentavius one-year performance history shows a veteran-like level of professionalism.
For their very first show in December of 2002, they hosted a late night, after-dance party at Epping Forest clubhouse in Annapolis, renting a stage, lights, a sound system and a guy to run it. More than 300 people came.
Two months and three performances later, they won the Anne Arundel County High School Battle of the Rock Bands, taking home nearly $2,000 for their high schools music program and an invitation to perform at the 2003 Millennium Music Festival in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Also this past year, they performed at Eastport-A-Rockin, the Eastport Clipper and traveled to St. Marys College and the University of Maryland, College Park to play.
As their touring territory grows, so does Kentavius bright reputation.
People go to see this band because they know these guys are a fun bunch, and that theyre going to have a good time seeing them, said Kentavius accountant and biggest fan, Susan E. Wheatley.
Their positive attitude radiates through their music that is self-described as collage rock with a focus on danceable, upbeat grooves.
We want to write music that makes your toes tingle, said Ben Bays.
Kentavius thrives on crowd participation and dazzles their audiences with unexpected moves like switching instruments on stage.
Jauregui adds the guitar, trumpet and keys to his performance. Wheatley adds the saxophone. Welker, the quiet one of the group, is especially advanced on the bass.
We were skeptical of Nick because he was just a freshman when we asked him to play with us, said Joel Bays. But when he showed up for practice and kicked all this music knowledge, we were like, wow, this kids awesome.
The Bays brothers are solid, too, with Joel composing most of the bands tunes.
Their songs are a unique mixture of funk, bossa nova, pop and rock n roll; their variety of instruments lends a big, multi-layered sound; and their personalities create a wave of youthful, rejuvenating energy.
Their flow was difficult to appreciate in a cramped basement, but it shined the following night despite a slew of problems at the Vault nightclub in Charm City.
An 18-or-over crowd of more than 150 was subdued and cold. The bartender was lame; the beer was warm; the soundman was lazy, unenthused and ran his equipment like a limbless zombie.
Unfazed, Kentavius played like it was their last performance, never once complaining about the shoddy sound, lack of bass, feedback and overall negativity.
They simply engaged the crowd, encouraged them to join in and allowed their cup of contagious positivity to runneth over.
By their last three songs, Kentavius had turned the Vault from a sterile bank lobby into a funky, uptown-party room: The crowd was dancing, the bartender lightened up and somehow the beer got cold.
The soundman never cooperated, however. Kentavius like true professionals made the necessary adjustments on stage and rocked their final number.
Applause filled the room, and the audience stood amazed, wearing a collective did-you-see-that look.
Theyre really talented for being so young, said Amber Cunningham from Centerville. They were awesome.
Kentavius awesomeness earned them the right to perform in Rock at the Rec for First Night Annapolis this New Years eve (6-11pm @ Annapolis Recreation Center, Compromise and St. Marys streets: www.firstnightannapolis.org).
Check out www.kentavius.com to find out where theyll be in 2004.
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