Youth bands a big success at Annapolis venue

ANNAPOLIS — There’s stripped-down rock, then there’s stripping-down to rock.

The members of Venus Corps, a quartet of Southern High School students, have got the second item covered, or make that uncovered.

They prefer to take to the stage wearing as little as possible, save boxers and socks — and guitars.

“It’s the easiest way to not get hot while we play,” band member Adam McPherson texted after a concert last weekend. “It all started (when) we decided to wear no shirts at practice. So, at the shows we decided no pants either. It’s our trademark.”

No one in the packed house at The Whiskey seemed to mind the bare bones approach. Friends and family members were too busy grooving to the band’s unique blend of ska — a type of regge rhythm — jazz and rock.

“We’re Venus Corps, we don’t wear clothes a lot, except for our drummer, who’s lame,” announced Bela Peresta as the group took the stage.

The band finished about 45 minutes later, but the concert was far from over. Three more youth bands were on tap.

The show was a continuation of the Rock of All Ages series at the Annapolis venue this summer. The concerts were such a success — attracting over 2,000 people on 13 Sundays — that promoter Danny Mays and Whiskey owner Mike Hearne decided to rock on at the urging of bands and parents. Mays has also partnered with Priddy Guitar Academy of Millersville so that some of its students will get the chance to perform.

The shows won’t be held every Sunday, since the school year has started, but enough are scheduled so music fans can regularly check out new bands. The next concert is Oct. 23, featuring The Situation, F.A.N., Ailous and Strobe Otters.

Eclectic lineups

In addition to Venus Corps, last Sunday’s bill featured Animal Orchestra, consisting of Broadneck High School students, Sensible Roots from Baltimore, and Dead Star Shine from Chesapeake Beach.

Mays said he likes to keep the lineups eclectic. “I don’t mind trying to stretch people’s minds a little,” he said.

The promoter also likes providing a space for new bands get some exposure, or spurring teens to start their own groups. “I prefer to think of myself as the obnoxious older brother that tries to help them along,” joked Mays, whose own band, Gold Mind Squad, will play a 10th anniversary show at The Whiskey in December.

Venus Corps formed in late 2009 and members said their sound is influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Daikaiju and 311.

The band has played The Whiskey before, and viewed the shows as a way of jump-starting their musical careers.

“It’s the beginning of our big break,” said Adam, adding the band is hoping for a record deal down the road.

They chose the name Venus Corps because Venus “is the most chill planet,” he said.

“Mars Corps doesn’t sound as fun,” Bela said.

The five members of Animal Orchestra had an equally playful attitude.

The group formed this year, and refers to their brand of music as “swag rock” on Facebook, said Kelcey Knutsen. “It’s a joke we use,” she said. “(We’re really) acoustic to punk to funk to everything.”

Kelcey said bands like theirs might only get the chance to play once or twice a year at school, so having a venue like The Whiskey is important. “You get out in the community,” she said.

“It gives you a good taste of what being a musician is like,” said bandmate Cooper Flynn.

It’s also a chance to get paid for playing music, since Mays splits part of ticket sales with the bands. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

“We just want to put ourselves out there to get people to know us,” said Steve Sherbert of the hard rock quartet Dead Star Shine.