By STEFANIE ROCHE
Mary Washington’s Favorite Sons Soldier on Despite Setbacks
The National Chimney’s Regional Park’s camp grounds were slick from the recent rainfall, and the dirt was nothing short of a mud puddle. It was Saturday, Sept. 27 and the four members of Junk
Science were drenched and their day was just beginning; but a day in the life of a college band does not always follow a steady beat.
Two and half hours west of UMW, Junk Science members Matt Bradshaw, Benjamin Marks, Ephraim Firdyiwek and Ed Dickerson stood side by side at Spaghetti Fest in Mount Solon, Va. and looked for the positive part of their upcoming show.
Spaghetti Fest, the annual charitable event, is a three-day music festival in the Shenandoah Valley, this year consisting of three different stages and over 40 bands from all music genres.
Meanwhile, the Obama Rally for Change on Mary Washington’s campus drew record crowds and drastically diminished the number of potential audience members.
“We were pretty excited to play for a large audience,” Firdyiwek, UMW senior and the band’s guitar bass player said. “But upon our arrival we discovered that we had the smallest stage at the entire festival — the acoustic stage.”
Junk Science was to perform at the same time as a popular acoustic blue grass band which was given the slot on the coveted main stage.
“And as if it could not get any worse, the rain never let up,” said Firdyiwek. “We left immediately after the performance, soaked and irritated, and we never even got paid.”
Since graduation Marks, Junk Science’s drummer, and Bradshaw, lead vocalist, harmonica and trumpet player from UMW in May 2008, the band has gone from five to four, with former band member Jeremy Cooper’s marriage to his college sweetheart. But despite the loss of their saxophone player and the occasional frustrating gig, the band is taking it all one set list at a time.
“Playing without Jeremy has been a challenge for us,” Marks said. “He decided it would be best to focus his efforts on his job and beginning his marriage and we all supported him in that decision.”
With one member married, Junk Science threw around the idea of booking a cross-country tour. The guys planned to spend the summer booking for the upcoming year and practicing their songs non-stop. But as summer rolled around, it became clear the tour was not to become a reality as even college bands are not invincible to the falling economy.
“There were a variety of reasons,” said Bradshaw, infamous for his signature top hat worn at every gig. “But it mostly came down to how much it would cost.”
“Gas is killer for bands these days,” added Marks. “I was fairly disappointed that things didn’t kick into gear, but I know that for something like that everyone’s hearts need to be in it 100 percent to allow it to be successful.”
Band life and friendship among Bradshaw, Dickerson, Firdyiwek and Marks have remained unchanged through the ups and downs; in fact they spend more time together outside band practice than before. The only obstacle is not all the members call Fredericksburg home anymore, making scheduling practicesmore challenging.
They gave up their practice space in downtown Fredericksburg, and use whatever space is available to them; including Dickerson’s friend’s house and The 3rd Floor, a venue hall in Fredericksburg, and Marks’ former summer residence in Richmond.
Deciding against a tour does not mean the band is playing any less. Throughout the summer and currently, they play a number of local shows in the Fredericksburg and Richmond areas, and plan to continue. On average they book four to five shows a month and continue to make appearance regularly on campus, including a last minute request at this year’s Homecoming bonfire event when the fire aspect was cancelled.
“That was crazy,” Marks said as a smile broke out across his face. “We literally found out about Thursday’s show on Wednesday night.”
Last minute calls are all part of the routine for college bands like Junk Science, and it is obvious the guys live to play their music and entertain a crowd, regardless of the size.
Thursday, Sept. 18 drew one of the smallest crowds when the band performed for UMW’s Young Democrats voter registration event. The lingering summer air and the laid back atmosphere provided the perfect show. Students dotted the benches in front of Lee Hall, campus walk and the area on Ball Circle. As the last warm rays of the summer began to set, Junk Science’s energy never wavered.
Senior Moire Garahan enjoyed the break before heading to her night class. “It was so relaxing. You looked around and everyone listening was either singing along or tapping their foot.”
With over 20 original songs, Junk Science has what they feel to be the best set lists to date, and enables them to adapt their funky fusion rock music to their audience.
Senior Chrissie Woolsey, entertainment coordinator for GIANT Productions at UMW, said it is not any harder to contact the band now that Marks and Bradshaw have graduated.
“The band is still in the area and they’re willing to play shows if they’re available on the date you want,” Woolsey said. “Giant has booked them for multiple shows since they formed the band and we hope to book them for more shows in the future. They always put on a fantastic, high-energy show.”
Fan loyalty remains steadfast as well. A MySpace account boasting 406 friends and four sample songs and a Facebook group with 192 members keep fans in the loop with upcoming gigs.
Junk Science will soon face yet another setback when Marks relocates to Montana in January after taking a year-long job with Americorps, an organization that aids poor familes or victims of natural disasters.
“I can’t answer what will happen after I relocate,” Marks said. “Something tells me we’ll be back together in a year.”
Despite an unclear future, Junk Science their annual Halloween show at The Loft tonight. The concert is open to anyone 18 and older, and Junk Science will play with Tereu Tereu, for what they promise will be one of the craziest nights of the year — just so long as zombies don’t scare you.