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Portland Arms Gig - Rock School 2023

Published on 15/06/23

On the evening of 27 March 2023, nearly 50 members of Stephen Perse from Year 7 to Year 12 congregated for their sound check in one of Cambridge’s leading Live Music Venues, The Portland Arms.

Cherry Blanchard, Assistant Director of Music, said: "Some performers were returning to this famous stage for our annual Rock School gig whilst other youngsters were playing live for the first time, in front of 200 eager friends and parents.

Twelve acts, including solo and duo items, played covers of The Ramones, ACDC, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Blondie to name a few. Excitingly, we also heard six new tracks which were written by band members themselves.

From quietly poignant solos and duos which brought tears to the eyes of some parents, to the wonderfully raucous cover of Thunderstruck by a six-piece band of Year 8s and 9s, we were treated to some great stage presence and budding talent.

Rock School Enrichment group for Year 10s upwards and the hour long weekly club for Year 7-9s is run by myself and Mr Paul Edwards, our guitar teacher and aided by Mrs Cooper for technical support and set up at gigs.

For six years now, this successful musical enterprise has seen students get together with their friends to write songs or perform some of their favourites, often taking up a new instrument along the way. It was hard to believe that a few of our musicians that night, for example, had only started learning the bass guitar in the past several months.

Read this excellent review of the night’s performances by drummer Ryan Abramson Y9"

 And the Bands Played On…

Stephen Perse rocks the Portland Arms

By Ryan A Year 9

Monday 27 March was a night that had been anticipated and prepared for months. The most recent show performed at the Portland Arms by assorted school bands was the third of its kind, spread out over five years due to the COVID lockdown. The past few shows have blown audiences away with the talent and sheer enthusiasm demonstrated by the bands, and that Monday night was no different. Compered by a Rock School alumna named Tara, twelve bands in total played over the course of a couple of hours, starting at 7:30pm.

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience as someone who has featured in different bands twice in a row, but this annual show always has an incredibly supportive atmosphere composed of peers and family members. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that it is one of the biggest shows that some of the bands on the line-up will ever play, so everyone makes it count and gives it their all. The result is an enjoyable night of high energy and an array of music genres, from indie pop to jazzy psychedelic rock to classic punk rock.

Weatherkey (Year 9 and Year 8) opened the gig with a sound rendition of the Ramones’ widespread hit ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, which modesty prevents me from commenting much further on as I was the one drumming for them. They were followed by High Decibels (Year 9 and Year 8), who performed an admirable cover of AD/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’, featuring a valiant attempt to emulate Brian Johnson from their singer. One of the highlights of this band, and possibly one of the numerous highlights of the evening, in this reviewer’s opinion, was their guitarist, who displayed surprising talent for his age. Although, it was somewhat ironic that a school band covering an AC/DC song wasn't wearing their school uniform. They missed an opportunity.

After High Decibels were Happy Hour (Year 8), covering Billie Eilish’s ‘Happier Than Ever’, providing a stark contrast from the first two bands with the emo pop power ballad which was performed well, despite the setback of having to censor many of the lyrics. A heartfelt version of The Neighbourhood’s ‘Sweater Weather’ was next performed by Blue Lettuce (Year 8), followed by a soloist by the name of Twig (Year 11) who covered ‘Average’ by TikTok sensation Sushi Soucy. This moving rendition was definitely another of the highlights of the evening. Twig is a force to be reckoned with and many in the audience that night were highly impressed.

The next musicians on the line-up were two brothers performing an original song called ‘Amanacer’, written by Ryan (Year 12), the guitarist. He was accompanied on bass by his younger brother AJ (Year 9). The song in question, an emotive psychedelic-influenced instrumental, was impressively written and structured. I may be referring to several acts as highlights, but it would be unfair and inaccurate of me to not include them in the long list of bands who I genuinely enjoyed from the night.

Following the two-piece was another soloist named Raye (Year 10), who is well-known around the school and undoubtedly talented. He performed ‘This December’ by Ricky Montgomery and then an acoustic original song titled ‘Breaking Point'. I have a lot of admiration for Raye and his performance definitely didn’t disappoint. Having performed at the past couple of shows hosted at the Portland Arms too, he has a knack for writing beautifully evocative songs on his guitar and, although not my normal cup of tea, I can appreciate the integrity of his work. After Raye was Memories of Tomorrow (Year 10), an eclectic power trio who covered Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Under the Bridge’ and Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’. As a Black Sabbath fan myself, it would almost be rude not to list this band as another one of my personal highlights.

Accidentally Correct (Year 8) were next, covering ‘Shy Away’ by Twenty-One Pilots and ‘Flux’ by Bloc Party, performed well and appearing to be well received. Next up were Trip Hazard (Year 11), who played a cover of The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ which started rockily but soon gained momentum, and then two punchy, straight-to-the-point alt rock original songs, titled ‘Softly’ and ‘Reflections’ respectively. Both songs were written by Frank, the singer and guitarist. Unsurprisingly, these guys were another of my personal highlights. It felt like they had established a unique style to their music, which is impressive for a younger band, and it’s a shame their songs aren’t available to listen to anywhere online as far as I could find.

Stephen Perse Senior School Open Day – 30 September. Click here and book and your place.

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