Creating Harmony

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 20:00
Local bands, Boys and Girls Club support one another
Anchors Alive singer Alex McCoy belts out a song during a rehearsal session at the Eagle River Boys and Girls Club.

Any given day of the week, passersby of the Eagle River Boys and Girls Club can hear the screams of Alex McCoy rising above a background of hardcore music. Though some might describe the sound of Anchors Alive as just noise, what’s going on inside the teen center is harmonious.

The five-member band has been practicing in the teen room since March — and hasn’t accepted a penny in return for three shows put on at the venue. At $5 a head, all the money raised from the concerts is put back into the teen room, said Eagle River branch manager Tracey Hupe.

Only about three local shows a year have been put on in the past, said drummer Tyler Clancy, 17.

“Shows were really limited out here before we came,” he said.

Now, schedule permitting, Hupe allows Anchors Alive to host a concert once a month.

“We’re so grateful to have this place,” Clancy said. “Shows here are amazing.”


Almost broke up

The band, which formed in February, almost immediately disbanded after being kicked out of their practice facility at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“We were on the verge of pretty much quitting,” said McCoy, 20, who, along with guitarist Kyle Adams, 19, is active duty air force.

With the band’s equipment sitting at guitarist Brandon Russell’s house, Anchors Alive searched for options. The band tried to rent a storage facility. But an $800-a-month room without electricity was of now use to them.

“We were desperate,” Russell said.

So McCoy approached Hupe about using the teen room.

“This was an out-of-the-box idea,” McCoy said.

Hupe, though skeptical, was open to it.

The members older than 18 passed a background check, Hupe said, and she monitored their first few practices closely. Today, she counts on the band to run the venue during shows — and can even call on them to help out in a pinch.

On a recent day when Hupe was short-staffed, Russell, 19, supervised a yellow Jell-O eating contest for young kids and provided entertainment with a two-and-a-half-hour solo concert.

“Brandon proved to be wonderful,” Hupe said. “They’re all great kids. They’ve even offered to come paint my house.

“I’m so happy that they’re here,” Hupe said.

The band reciprocates Hupes kindness by ensuring other bands follow the center’s rules. They respect the other user groups (taekwondo, yoga, self-defense classes to name a few), Hupe said.

“They take really good care of this room,” she said.

Hupe’s faith in the band is not lost on its members.

“I give her the most respect for trusting us,” McCoy said.


Club gets $10,000 grant

The state recently awarded the Eagle River club a $10,000 grant for renovations to its teen center. Upgrades will include new lighting, speakers, monitors and recording equipment, Hupe said.

“It’s just great that we can put money into a room that the kids like to use,” she said.

The club also wants to eventually have running water and a bathroom in the teen room, said Urban Clubs Director Jennifer Brown, who wrote the grant.

The state grant and $1,800 the club received from the Slippery Salmon Olympics will be used solely on the teen room, Brown said.

“We put it all into technology,” she said. “We’re putting the money into music because it’s been such a huge hit out there,” she said.

Brown said she’s hoping the upgrades will attract new teens.


A wide range of genres

Clancy described Anchors Alive as a “mix between old-school hardcore and post-hardcore.” The band is committed to having a wide range of genres represented at each show.

“That’s what I want in a show,” Russell said.

“We just want variety,” said 17-year-old bassist Ray Ochoa.

The crowd is appreciative of the diversity, said Nathan Pedersen, of local punk rock/hard rock band The Fringe.

“Pretty much no matter what you play, the crowd is into it,” he said.

Anchors Alive, who are in charge of setting up the concerts’ lineup and promotion, want to help highlight other new bands, McCoy said.

“We’ll put ourselves first or last. We don’t care,” he said.

“We’re very supportive of other bands,” Russell added.

The five-plus bands that frequent the teen room give advice to their fellow rockers, Russell said.

“It’s pretty much everyone helping everyone,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do for the scene.”

Hupe, who sees bands utilizing the teen room nearly every night, echoed Russell’s words.

“They just go back and forth helping each other out,” she said.


A great venue

The teen center provides an intimate atmosphere for shows, McCoy said.

“Everyone loves playing here because it’s so small,” he said. “It’s up close and personal.”

“Kids are looking at you in the face,” Russell said.

The Eagle River site tops any Anchorage venue, Ochoa said.

Seeing familiar faces, too, makes shows more enjoyable, said Pedersen, a Chugiak High sophomore.

“Basically, you see everyone you know here,” he said.

The location couldn’t be better, McCoy said.

“It’s a prime spot between the Valley and Anchorage,” he said.

Concerts usually feature six to seven bands and have drawn about 80 kids on average, Hupe said. The first show in January had 300 in attendance, she said.

The next concert is slated for Nov. 18. Admission is four cans of food, which will be donated to the Food Pantry, Hupe said.


Won’t accept any money

Though Hupe offers every show, Anchors Alive won’t accept any money for playing — not even just to cover gas.

“The shows aren’t about getting money,” McCoy said. “We play just to play.”

Seeing the smiling faces in the crowd is all the payment needed, Russell said.

“We want to show what we do, what we sound like, what we’re about,” he said. “We play to have fun.”

Hupe allowing bands to practice at the teen center more than makes up for playing free shows, McCoy said.

“She’s blessed us with so much already,” he said.

“We’re eternally grateful,” Russell said.

All the bands recognize how important Hupe’s support is, said Daniel Langdon of The Fringe.

“She’s really into it,” he said. “She’s really supportive.”


Looks aren’t important

Hupe stressed the importance — or lack of importance — aesthetics factor into a person’s character. While many of the band members have piercings, tattoos and play hardcore music, they shouldn’t be stereotyped as rebellious teens, she said.

“Just because it’s not the music we all listen to, doesn’t make it bad,” Hupe said. “These are good kids. Everyone needs to know that.”


Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or [email protected]

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