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Music This Side Up

The 5 members of the classic rock/alternative band This Side Up cite their musical influences:  Led Zeppelin.  AC/DC.  Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Green Day.

That’s not unusual.  But what is surprising is that This Side Up consists of 8th graders.  All 5 are Bedford Middle School students — and all were born well after those famous bands found fame.

The boys in the band.

But rock is as much about passing down tradition as it is about forging new sounds, and This Side Up follows in good footsteps.  The Beatles, after all, began when teenage friends started playing the music of their American idols.

This being 2011 Westport, not 1950s Liverpool, This Side Up’s rehearsal space — a member’s house — is a bit posher.  But close your eyes, and the roots of rock — guitars, drums and vocals — are there for all to enjoy.

Jason Blankfein, Ian Goodman,  Eli Koskoff, Jesse Shapiro and Joe Zec have all been musicians for several years.  Each credits his parents for turning him on to classic rock.

(Jesse’s father, a drummer, still plays in a band.  Like father, like son:  Jesse also drums.)

“It’s just good music,” Jason explains.

“New music is all computers,” Eli adds.  “The old stuff — people really thought about what they were playing.  They were better musicians.”

The members of This Side Up played in various permutations at Bedford.  The current lineup came together several months ago, when they realized they clicked musically.

Eli, Jesse and Joe play in the Bedford jazz band.  Ian sings in the Camerata Chorus.

Though the British Invasion unleashed a torrent of wanna-bes — every junior high and high school teemed with bands dreaming of being the next Beatles — things are different today.  This Side Up says they’re the only real band at Bedford.

But — like musicians everywhere — they love what they’re doing.  “I really like the band scene,” Ian says.  “We have a lot of fun onstage.”

Their first gig was Bedford’s talent show.  Jason describes their performance as “okay.”

They’ve since played Easton’s Battle of the Bands.  There, they were particularly pleased with their version of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”

Last Friday night, This Side Up drew their 1st crowd of admiring, dancing girls, at Toquet Hall.  On Saturday, the band was the opening act at EcoFest.

The teenagers know they’re young, with a lot to learn.  They look forward to Staples, where they plan to join the jazz band (and hope to pick up a keyboardist).

For now they’re having fun playing for people, soaking up the crowd’s energy and, Eli says, “gaining confidence.”

When asked what’s ahead, they reply:  “Go as far as we can go.”

For inspiration they need look no further than the Staples stage.  Back in the day — the day when everyone wanted to be the next Beatles — a band named the Chain Reaction opened for several groups when they played on the Staples stage.  One — the Yardbirds — featured Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

The Chain Reaction’s vocalist was Steve Tallerico.  Several years ago — after  changing his name to Steve Tyler — Aerosmith’s lead singer gave a speech recalling how important those high school shows were to his own career.

Today, Steve Tyler’s speech plays in an endless loop at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Which — who knows? — is where This Side Up may wind up, a few decades and many, many hits from now.

(For This Side Up’s YouTube band page, click here.)

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