School of rock

Someone’s Missing rocks out. If only all our final exams were this cool.

Someone’s Missing rocks out. If only all our final exams were this cool.

Here’s the idea: Teach a hip class, like “History of Rock Music,” for example. Then, put the students into rock bands, like Jack Black did in that School of Rock movie. Then, ask for some outside help from, say, a session player like Rob Sabino (keyboardist for Paul Simon, Madonna, Mick Jagger and Jeff Beck—to name a few) and a musician like Barry Melton of Country Joe & the Fish. Finally, end the class with a full-on rock show featuring songs written by the class and performed by bands formed directly from enrolled students.

Sound like a good idea? I think so, and so does Christopher Reynolds, the music professor at UC Davis who has done exactly this for the past five years. The current crop of young student rockers got their freak on at UC Davis on Monday, December 6. Three bands, each containing between six and 11 members, performed a combination of cover songs and originals to a packed auditorium. The end result was kind of like watching a high-school theater performance. Some of it was awful, for sure, but the kids tried so hard and put so much into it that you couldn’t help but smile and think that somehow, some way, rock conquers all.

The highlights were the little, shining moments of true potential: the drums of Stephen Kurschner in Liquid Dream 7, or Christina Claros’ vocals and Stephen Campbell’s lead-guitar work in Someone’s Missing, or the drumming by Tommy Kreamer and Andrew Matey (who played a lot of cowbell and percussion, as well) in Woody Sunshine and the Electrifying Conclusion. The true high point of the evening, though, was the contribution of German exchange student Christian Spiess. He acted as bassist and, for one song, pianist for Woody Sunshine and was one of the few performers onstage who truly knew how to perform. Bravo, mein jung superstar.

In fact, bravo to Reynolds and to all the bands and the fans, friends and parents who came to watch them rock out. I only wish the undergraduate classes I sporadically attended 10 years ago were so hip.

Fresh on the desk is the Kimberly Trip’s brand-new all-acoustic release, Mimicking the Cool Kids (Glitter Kitty Records). It sounds pretty studio-friendly for a live recording. That’s the magic of the polished pop fingers of Jeffry Wynne Prince at work, I’d gather. Check out for more on that release.

Also, available at the Phantom Galleries’ Creative Couples show was a collaborative CD-EP from Estereo’s Skip Allums and monochrome watercolorist Olivia Warnecke. Singing Saw reprints, in CD-booklet form, the four watercolors Warnecke displayed at the Phantom Galleries show. The accompanying CD presents four tracks from Allums as a soundtrack to those same four paintings. Cute! Visit to beg for your copy.