The Anne Arundel County Battle of the Bands means music, which is serious business for Annapolis area youth.
For one Saturday in January — January 25 this year — young music lovers converge to show off their skills in a professional environment, witness their peers’ latest creative efforts and meet fellow music enthusiasts. The top bands of each Anne Arundel County high school play off in the heavily anticipated competition. There are first-, second- and third-place winners — and lots of happy teenagers.
“The impact Battle of the Bands has had on the Anne Arundel County teen culture is immeasurable,” says the competition’s annual emcee, Danny Mays. “It was a big part of shaping my music career when I performed back in 2001 and has provided the same opportunity to over 500 musicians since then.”
One of the bands that soared off the energy of Battle of the Bands is the locally adored Sun Club.
“What has given us the biggest inspiration is the local music culture that we grew up around,” says guitarist Shane McCord. “Our friends in Moving House Collective totally inspired us, and also Dungeon Kids used to have house shows and they have shaped us a lot. We know a lot of people from Battle of the Bands, too, and relationships that have spawned from that competition.”
Here Comes the Sun
The five-man group called themselves Pandomonia back in 2011 when they won Battle of the Bands for Severna Park High. They’ve since recorded multiple EPs, toured the country, played in Canada and earned praise through international music reviews in Indie Rock Cafe and Paste Magazine.
Locally, they’re culture heroes.
“I got tickets to my first Sun Club show through my brother,” says Paul Rogers of Mayo. “I kept hearing from people that Sun Club was the best show that they’ve been to. I thought they were exaggerating because they are local. They were not!”
As Rogers says, Sun Club is a thrill to see live. Using kitchen tools for percussion, guitar amps for podiums and their fans’ voices as extensions of their music, they pull teens from all over the D.C.-Baltimore area. Sun Club concerts are notoriously loud, absurd and happy.
“It was crazy,” says South River High School graduate James Hoot of the recent Metro Gallery show in Baltimore. “People were crowd surfing, the whole gig was wild.”
“We just sold out at Metro Gallery in Baltimore and it was absolutely insane,” says McCord, Sun Club’s 18-year-old guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist — and glockenspiel player.
Let the Sun Shine
Though Maryland Hall, Metropolitan and The Whiskey are where Sun Club first gained experience and inspiration, these Severna Park boys may be outgrowing the small local venues.
A highly anticipated EP — Dad Claps at the Mom Prom — was released January 21. A 2014 tour is brewing. The band plays locally this month and next, then tours the West Coast in March and April, including the SxSW festival in Austin, Texas.
On January 23, the boys play the 9:30 Club in D.C., where the legendary Bob Dylan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimmy Eat World, Smashing Pumpkins and Beastie Boys have all played.
As Sun Club moves to the bigger indie scenes in Baltimore, D.C. and beyond, the players attribute much of their success to growing up in Annapolis.
“We swim a ton and play in the water all the time. I feel like living here, with all the water, has given our music an outdoors vibe,” says McCord.
It’s given him, while still a teenager, the life he dreamed about in high school.
“Being in Sun Club has impacted my life by showing me that things actually do take a long time,” McCord says. “It’s exactly what we want to be doing — and it’s amazing to be able to do it — so it’s super cool.”