‘Sequence’ of events at Teen Battle of Bands
By Lou Fancher
If your toddler in a highchair bangs incessantly with a spoon, don’t stop the beat. He or she might someday be a centerpiece in a rock band, like 13-year-old drummer Dante Romeo in Dante & The Giants, or songwriter/bass guitarist Nikolai Heffernan, 16, one of three musicians in the Lafayette-based band, The Sequence.
Dante and Nikolai joined other young musicians Nov. 4, at the Lafayette Library Community Hall to compete in the fifth annual Teen Battle of the Bands.
Presenting evidence of the area’s significant musical talent, five bands each performed three songs for a roaring audience of approximately 150, and a three-judge panel of professional musicians. Sponsored by local businesses, hosted by the library and emceed by Live 105, bands were awarded cash prizes from $5-$250 in the form of prepaid gift certificate debit cards.
Roughly 14 years before The Sequence took first place in the competition, Nanette Heffernan said her son held music in his heart — and in a spoon.
“It bothered me then, when he constantly tapped spoons on his highchair tray, but when it became music, it became my refuge, along with his. I love that my house is filled with music at 10 o’clock at night.”
Even more, as the mother of a 16-year-old, Heffernan admires her son’s dedication and commitment.
“He practiced for hours and hours for today. He didn’t want to let his buddies down,” she said.
Similarly, Steve Romeo, father of the Charlotte Wood Middle School eighth-grade student and drummer Dante, Romeo said his son’s all-day practice sessions are common.
Dante picked up his first drumsticks nine years ago at age 2, after an Olympic athlete-in-training the family hosted in their home left behind his drums.
“We had bobsledder Chuck Berkeley, who was going to Cal, staying with us. He didn’t have room to take his drums with him, so that was Dante’s first set of drums. I play guitar and gave him some help, but he’s been taking lessons ever since. He hustles.”
Serendipity and scrambling were especially important this year, when Dante had to make different band arrangements just two weeks before the competition.
He called on Aiden Nichols on guitar and bass player Logan Nuelle to form a new, two-week-old band.
“I knew them from school, they’re friends, it worked out cool. We practiced all day yesterday, so we got into the groove then,” he said, speaking backstage after the band completed their set.
Dante & The Giants later in the evening won fourth place.
The judges included Paul Schmidt, a Lafayette-based artist, educator and scholar whose background includes serving as the founding assistant director of the educational component of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Christin Hoult, a professional musician in Walnut Creek, brought to the judging three decades of performing and teaching guitar in a variety of genres. Joining them was guitarist Jacob Light, a Walnut Creek-based performer, producer, educator and founder of ModernTone Studios, a recording and production facility in Lafayette.
“The musicianship overall was impressive,” Light said after the competition. “It takes a lot of guts to perform in front of people. It doesn’t matter if you are 13, or 30 or 75, it’s hard to do three songs, bang, bang, bang, from start to finish. It’s demanding musically, physically, psychologically. They all rocked.”
Also performing and earning recognition from the judges and audience were House Band, (second place), Six-Thirty (third) and Pyrite (fifth).
Teen Services library assistant Patrick Brogan said this years’ bands showed impressive range of talent and even the audience deserved acknowledgment.
During breaks between sets while bands tore down and set up equipment, people shouted out answers to music trivia questions and won prizes.
“They really knew their stuff this year. It was impressive,” said Brogan.