Who will earn the title of Loudoun’s most talented teen act this year? The upstart girl group made up mostly of talented middle schoolers? The popular high school rockers who were last year’s fan favorites? The soulful solo singer who knocked listeners out with his version of hits from Justin Bieber to Johnny Cash? Or one of six other winners from three preliminary rounds held earlier this year.
Fans will get the answer April 21 at the annual Battle of the Bands as nine finalists compete for top billing at the Loudoun YouthFest music festival in June.
The young women from StoneCold seem like your average chatty, giggling group of middle schoolers. Until they start playing music. Then it’s all about dead, serious rock ‘n’ roll.
With hard-hitting percussion, rowdy guitar and powerful vocals, these girls are talented beyond their years. Drummer Lauren Moore, a freshman at Loudoun County High School is the band’s oldest member. Guitarist Angelina Daly and her twin sister, bassist/keyboardist Nadia Daly, both sixth graders at Stone Hill Middle School, are the youngest. Two seventh graders, guitarist Kaelin Fannon of River Bend Middle School and vocalist Morgan Milne of Eagle Ridge Middle School, round out the band.
The girls got together at the School Of Rock music program in Ashburn, and credit the school’s performance-focused instruction with helping them become one of the youngest acts to make the Battle of The Bands finals. They’ll be going up against more seasoned musicians, but are brimming with confidence and enthusiasm and big dreams.
“I personally want to get famous with this band. … I think we can go far,” said Angelina, the petite and feisty guitarist who takes a page from her idol, Slash from the iconic rock band Guns N’ Roses. And YouthFest just may be step one for StoneCold.
“It’s a big opportunity to play on big stages with a lot of people watching so it’s great to get our band out there,” Angelina said.
For the band’s bubbly drummer Lauren, the most recent member to join, the performance is an impressive statement about how far a little hard work can go. The group only came together at the beginning of this year, but have been practicing their hearts out ever since, getting together every chance they get and often giving up weekend fun. They’ll be spending spring break getting ready for the final battle where they’ll showcase a mix of collaboratively written originals and hard rocking covers like Royal Blood’s “Little Monster.”
“It really helps show how much we’ve grown,” Lauren said.
Dominion High School freshman Matthew Cahill wowed listeners during the battle’s second preliminary round with his soulful voice. The young man and his guitar has the crowd cheering for material ranging from Justin Bieber to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
“It was a really cool experience to get past the first round. I don’t know if I was expecting it. There were a lot of really good acts there,” said Matthew, whose influences range from Springsteen to Sinatra to Ed Sheeran.
For Cahill, it helps to attend a school where talented musicians are celebrated and respect for the performing arts is a big part of part of the school’s culture. Eli Pafumi, now a senior at Dominion, took first place at the 2015 Battle of the Bands and is a friend and mentor to Cahill.
Cahill started singing at a young age and started guitar lessons a few years later. He’s currently studying with Jim and Ashley Cash from the Sterling-based folk-rock band Woven Green. Cahill caught Woven Green’s performance at the Tally Ho a few years ago—his first time at the venue—and he’s looking forward to returning—this time on stage himself.
The Fan Faves
When Tuscarora High School cellist and drummer Allan Fogelson wanted to start a band a couple of years ago, he immediately thought of his old friend and talented singer Zach Jones. Fellow Tuscarora junior Derek Johnson and sophomore Nick Beers came on board and the band has been cranking out original tunes and attracting fans ever since.
Never Born To Follow’s musical chops and engaging stage presence earned them third place—along with the Fan Favorite award—at last year’s Battle Of The Bands. NBTF released a new EP “Chase” earlier this year.
With hard rock and grunge influences (from Metallica to Pearl Jam) and a focus on guitar solos and gritty vocals, much of the band’s success to date comes from members’ natural ability to channel the crowd’s energy.
“Since I’m playing with good friends of mine it comes naturally, and we want to connect with the audience. … If they’re not having fun, we’re not having fun,” Fogelson said.
As one of several returning acts, Never Born to Follow’s members are looking forward to the buzz of playing at a big event and a chance to connect with fellow teen musicians from around the county.
Last year’s YouthFest was cold and rainy, Fogelson said, “But it was still a great show. It allowed our band to play in front of people and meet other great people who are also musicians and share interests and being able to see them perform as well.”
This year’s list of finalists is rounded out by Cast Another Stone, Witches Brew, Kathleen, The Shallow Roots, Suburbia and 10 Degrees Colder.
“It’s a good mix, we do have a lot of returning bands that consist of upperclassmen in high school. What I will say is that the program is cyclical, like all school programs. When the older students graduate, we always seem to get a wave of exciting and fresh new talent,” said organizer Alex Beard, Youth Initiative Specialist with the county’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services department. “I think there is something to be said about the gumption of some of these younger acts. It’s really hard to get up on stage and compete against students who have been doing this for years. … I think if readers could take anything away from this year’s competition it’s that anyone has the ability to win if they put in the time to hone their craft, regardless of age.”
The Loudoun YouthFest Battle of the Bands final battle takes place at 6 p.m. Friday, April 21, at the Tally Ho Theater, 19 W. Market St. in Leesburg. Doors open Tickets are $8 at the door.
Loudoun YouthFest takes place 3-8 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the Barn At One Loudoun, 20450 Savin Hill Drive in Ashburn. Headline act and ticket information will be announced soon. Find more information at loudounyouth.org.