Lack of Focus just became a band a month ago. The members hadn’t performed live together. But they tried out for the Tri-C High School Rock Off anyway, and snagged a spot in the final round.
They were one of 66 high school bands that made it out of 80 applicants, said Frank Imhoff of Live Nation. The band performed Friday night at the House of Blues during round three of the 16th annual event Feb. 11.
student Giles Vondoom was confident they’d move past the first round to the final, known as the "Final Exam,” before he and the band played.
“I may feel nervous, but I don’t feel intimated. I feel as a band we’re phenomenal and we have the potential to win it, if not this year, next year,” said 16-year-old Giles, who wore studio-quality headphones around his neck.
The band, comprised of 10th-graders from Heights High, Shaker Heights High and Hawken School, practiced without a name for the first few weeks.
“Usually what we’d do is spend eight hours just goofing around in (bassist and Shaker Heights High student Jack Crowley’s) basement,” Giles explained. And (Jack’s) like, ‘We need to focus.’ And someone said, ‘Why don’t we be Lack of Focus?’"
After they came up with a name and found out they made it to the Rock Off in December, the musicians centered themselves and had nine hour marathon practices once or twice a week to make sure they were ready.
Giles, who plays guitar and is the lead vocalist, and Jack are just two of the five musicians in the band. Lack of Focus also includes Shaker Heights High student and guitarist Justin Hobbs, Hawken student and drummer Noah Geller and Hawken student and keyboardist Aric Floyd.
Their set list, which had to be 20 minutes or less, included an original song written by Giles and Justin, “Fool Song.” They also played Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Can’t Stop” and The Killers’ “When you were young,” as Giles said those bands have influenced their style of music.
“When we went on stage, we gave it our all. At first I was feeling really nervous, but when I walked on the stage and saw all of my close friends and fans out there watching, all the nervousness went away,” Giles said. His band sold about 90 $10 tickets to the event.
Judges assign points in three categories — musicianship, originality and stage presence. Judges include musicians, radio personalities and representatives from the Rock Hall, Beachland Ballroom and the House of Blues. The top three scoring performers from each of the six semi-final rounds advance to the Final Exam.
Each of the 18 bands that make it to the Final Exam receive prizes, including tickets to the Rock Hall, according to a press release from Imhoff. The band that lands first place will get $1,000 cash, a $200 donation to its high school band, a half page ad in Scene magazine to promte its next gig and a vinyl banner with the band's logo, in addition to several other prizes. The second- and third-place winners also receive cash and several prizes.
“We had fun, and we made it to the next round — that was a bonus,” Giles said. “It was a very remarkable night.”