T.O. band aces local club scene
By Sylvie Belmond firstname.lastname@example.org
Competition for playing time is so fierce that today's teenage bands must promise a profit before they can take the stage in clubs. They're compelled to sell tickets up front to guarantee the venue will earn a profit.
But economic reality didn't interrupt John Anagnos' aspirations to beat a path through the crowded teenage-band arena.
"If you want to do something in life, you have absolutely no choice but to be self-driven because people will not come to you," said Anagnos.
John and his brother AJ founded Aces High Music about two years ago. The band's sound is rooted in hard rock and alternative styles.
It didn't take long before the group was proficient enough to perform in front of a live audience, but finding a venue wasn't an easy task.
John, the oldest member of the band, learned to sell the group over the telephone. He also learned a lot about the music industry.
"I used to be shy," said the 18year-old drummer and band leader, who quickly developed business skills that landed the young group some local gigs.
Aces High Music first performed at Redwood Middle School, where they helped to organize a concert with other new bands. Later, the band played at the Agoura/Calabasas Community Center, at the Cobalt Club in Canoga Park and at Simi Valley's Harmony Sweets.
The band opened for Yngwie Malmsteen at the Ventura Theater last year. Malmsteen is a virtuoso guitarist who pioneered the neoclassical genre in the early 1980s.
"The only catch is that we had to sell 60 tickets at $25 apiece," John said.
He added that it was worth it.
The group is scheduled to play May 5 at Conejo Valley Days and at the Ventura County Fair in June. They'll also appear at The Joint in L.A. on April 14 and at the Whiskey a Go-Go in Hollywood sometime in the near future, they said.
"Our house was always filled with all kinds of music," said AJ, a freshman at Thousand Oaks High School and the lead singer and a composer for the band.
he 15-year-old also credits his TOHS music teacher, Mr. (George) Swanson, with inspiring him.
"He taught me how original music comes from the soul," AJ said.
The boys were motivated by an unexpected hardship as well. Last year their mother, Carole, became ill with cancer. "She wasn't able to see us perform anyplace," said John. The medical treatment confined her to bed and was hard on the family, but the music was cathartic and kept the brothers focused.
"My interest in music really became serious to me and I wanted to pursue it to where I could make a living," said John, a senior at Thousand Oaks High School.
Although making a profit as a rock band in the music industry today is nearly impossible, John is driven by the band's early success.
AJ, who also plays guitar, hopes to use music as a platform for humanitarian endeavors to give back to the community.
He's learned some lessons already. The band has taught him that change is inevitable. Although the group has only existed for a few years, members have already come and gone.
"At first it was hard to let go, but now I expect change. It's part of life," said AJ, who hopes the current makeup of Aces High Music will remain unchanged for as long as possible.
Mark Borbas, a TOHS junior, joined the group a month ago. The guitarist is a member of the high school's advanced jazz band and recently won the high school jazz soloist award in Santa Barbara.
Bass player Steven Cook is a sophomore at Newbury Park High School. "Naturally I have to keep up my grades in order to play," said Steven, who's an honor student.
Aces High Music is a group of kids who try to keep a positive attitude, Steven said. "We're all straight-edge. We don't get high or into uncool stuff."
"We try and showcase each other's musical talent," said John.
Bands must work hard to make it in their competitive field, but chemistry is also important. Today's kids are sophisticated and aren't fooled by flash and fivechord changes, John said. Aces High will perform on Friday evening at the Agoura/ Calabasas Community Center in Calabasas. For more information, please visit www. aceshighmusic.com.