Written by Jason Saitta
Sam Johnston discovered a love for guitar his sophomore year of high school and has been playing ever since.
“The first song I really sat down and tried to learn was ‘She Talks to Angels’ by The Black Crowes,” said Johnston. “I picked up [my dad’s] old guitar and was like, ‘okay, I could do this,’ and just kind of fell in love.”
Last year, Johnston decided to get a band together and work toward playing Rock Showcase.
“My manager said ‘you need to play with musicians that scare you’,” Johnston noted. “It’s pushed me to be a better player I think.”
Johnston’s band features himself on guitar and vocals, Tony Cianchetta on keyboards, Atticus Forbes on drums, Ryan Hoffman on guitar, Connor Gravley-Novello on bass and Emma Kleinberg on background vocals.
The audience can expect a mix of reggae, blues and psychedelic rock during Johnston’s performance.
“It’s kind of like if Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley had a baby.”
Of the two original songs that he’ll be playing on Saturday, “The River,” is one that is especially personal to Johnston.
“It’s probably my favorite song I’ve written. I went and worked at this summer camp out in Arkansas and was surrounded by all these Christian people that were so upbeat and positive,” said Johnston. “It made me look back at myself and be like, ‘what have I been doing?’ I realized that I definitely needed some redemption.”
Johnston’s band will end its set with a cover of “Roses” by Outkast.
“It’s going to be a hoot. I’m really stoked about it. It’s been really cool to see it come to fruition.”
The Thing With Feathers
Written by Sara Scannell
The Thing With Feathers — made up of sophomores Joey Preziosi, TC Mann and David Welcsh — was born out of a demo project for the members’ master production class.
Despite forming just a few months before the end of their freshman year, The Thing With Feathers has already gotten a taste of life on the road.
“We started off playing fraternities all around the South,” Welcsh said.
“It was a mini touring experience I guess, more like mini financial recompense and a way to make money,” added Preziosi.
“Really we got a sense of living out of our cars and brushing our teeth in Cracker Barrel,” Mann said.
The band was founded on extremely eclectic array of influences. Some of these include Eric Clapton, Sturgill Simpson, The Velvet Underground, Oasis, Van Halen and more.
“We’re kind of a jambalaya of influences,” Mann said.
This variety has been the key to The Thing With Feathers’ sound so far.
“David usually brings us a song and we all kind of just do our own thing on top of it,” Preziosi said. “Then we decide to do more or less of those things and it kind of just matures into an amalgamation of sounds and ideas.”
The Thing With Feathers also credits its success to friends and supporters.
“The cool thing about being in Nashville and at Belmont is that you get shows by knowing your friends and going to shows and knowing people there,” said Preziosi. “So they get a show and then someone else gets a show and it’s all a nice little web of connections through your friends. So you basically just go out and hang out with our friends and then a bunch of people from your 9 a.m. math class show up.”
Leading up to Saturday’s showcase, the band will continue to lean on friends at Belmont and hope to deliver a great performance.
“Fans can expect noise,” said Welsch with a laugh.
“There will be lots of running, lots of shredding,” added Preziosi. “If you like traditional rock and roll you’ll be satisfied. We are just a rock n’ roll band.”
Written by Zach Gilchriest
Emma Lambiase of Group Nap is excited to give women a spotlight at Rock Showcase 2017.
“For this I pulled in a lot of my female friends,” she said. “Because one thing I’ve noticed about all the showcases, but particularly rock showcase, is there’s maybe one woman in it or maybe none.”
The group — which currently includes Lambiase and Gender Equality Movement President Kat Carlton — uses its platform to promote equality and activism.
“It’s not explicit in my music at all, I haven’t ventured into trying to make that my message,” Lambiase said. “But we try really hard to plan out what you say between songs or plan what you really want to hit home with people — we try to make those things align with our interest in equality and activism.”
Since starting in the fall of 2015, Group Nap has undergone several lineup changes.
“We started at a Halloween show in 2015, and that was just three members,” Lambiase said. “Through that, I’ve just been experimenting with different arrangements. We had an EP release show, and that had 10 people with horns and stuff.”
Half the fun of preparing for showcase, Lambiase said, was figuring out what the band’s arrangement would be.
For Saturday, the group — which Lambiase described as a “mom jams” band — will be joined on stage by a second bassist.
“I have my really close friend Connor Novello also playing bass — it’s going to be really absurd,” Lambiase said. “It’s interesting, it ends up sounding good because we plan out what part of the instrument we’re playing on, so it doesn’t overpower any one frequency too much.”
Until recently, Group Nap has kept things low key — playing songs at smaller local venues, like The East Room and The Country.
Saturday night’s show will be a big step in Group Nap’s plans to start ramping up the band’s fan base, but for Lambiase, it’s mainly about having fun.
“The idea is to make it as fun and as colorful as possible. I want all the girls to be up front dancing,” she said.
“I really just want to celebrate the fact that we got there.”
Written by Emily Allen
More than anything, the members of Parrotfish like to have fun.
Parrotfish is made up of Conor Lynch on vocals, Joe Cadrecha on guitar, Trace Chiappe on drums and Matthew “Mattigan” Rodriguez on bass.
Cadrecha, Lynch and Rodriguez started playing together in high school and met drummer Chiappe when they came to Belmont.
“We met Trace on day one in Pembroke, through our moms,” Cadrecha said. “They heard drumming and said we should jam with that guy.”
The bandmembers bonded over their shared influences including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grateful Dead and Radiohead.
“Our genre, we say alternative rock, but we have influences ranging from reggae to hip hop to blues,” said Chiappe.
All four boys came to Belmont to pursue music, and have tried taking every opportunity Nashville has to offer.
“We came for music, but we mostly came for us. It seemed like the best place where we could do music and go to college,” said Rodriguez.
Now as juniors, the four boys live together in what can only be described as a musical frat house. Instruments are scattered around every room, and the basement doubles as a place to host both band practice and house shows.
It’s certain that the camaraderie Parrotfish has built will be centerstage on Saturdays Rock Showcase.
Photos courtesy of CEMB Showcase Series.