Sweaty hair pasted to his forehead, the singer earnestly leaned into the mic.
Hordes of family, friends, and supporters swarmed the intimate House Rock and Blues in April to celebrate their favorite act in the Dragonworks Showcase line up of five emerging local bands. A graduation of sorts, the evening allowed the twenty-odd students at Santiago's first music school to show off their burgeoning skills.
Photo by Oisin Keely
An answered prayer for any wanna-be looking to break into the industry, Dragonworks Studio is the only one of its kind in Chile. The relatively new school has been up and running since January 2010. A community of professional musicians, sound engineers, and music teachers work to assist students with all aspects of music business, selflessly driven by the desire to help create the next generation of musicians, managers, and publicists.
Photo by Oisin Keely
The venue for the evening, a perfect choice for would-be rock stars, featured excellent acoustics and sound, colored lights, and a low stage tricked out with choice equipment. The friendly waitstaff passed plates of hors d'oeuvres and ashtrays to the cheering, supportive crowd. It must have been nerve-wracking for those on stage, who were expected to produce fantastic live music in front of the large crowd, but you wouldn't have known it to look at them.
The first group, La Pepa, featured drummer Pepe Hidalgo, guitarist/singer Rafael Sacaan and bassist Rodolfo Otero. Combining catchy, pop rock melodies, crisp drumming and smooth, clear vocals, their polished hit "Cinco Minutos" revealed their experience playing together. The visibly excited drummer bit his lip and swung his head. The bassist bobbed in time. The singer was as unfazed as Jared Leto in 'My So Called Life.' These kids possessed ultra cool attitudes and professional demeanor beyond their years.
Next up, progressive rock frontman Camilo Contreras treated the audience to his virtuoso skills. His anthem "Kappa" featured epic solo work, revealing his incredible proficiency. Each carefully chosen note reflected method and emotion, resulting in a rich sound.
Photo courtesy of Dragonworks Studio
Heavy metal act Fuego Oscuro came third, bright with confidence. Makeup around one eye, a leg up on the speaker, the singer growled hello. Brothers Jaime Fell (voice and keyboard) and David Fell (guitar) joined drummer Camilo Hernandez, guitarist Fernando Saavedra, and bassist Francisco Barrera. Palatable vocals soared over powerful strings and drums in "Al Final Libres". They captured a marching, doomy feeling as if the end was coming to grab the audience.
The fourth group, Griffo Denegriz included Danilo Pérez as vocalist/composer/guitarist, Daniel Valdebenito on guitar, Esteban Gallardo on bass and Matias Pizarro on drums. Griffo brought a distinctive hard rock sound that took influence from shoegaze, post punk, and post noise. Fast paced drumming topped downbeat vocals. Dreamy distortion and an indie sensibility made them a crowd-pleaser.
The final act, El Hijo Olvidado, rocked heavy bass, wailing vocals, and spacey sound affects on "Arriunado." A testament to their grunge, classic rock, and occasional folk influences, the group composed of vocalist/guitarist Francisco, drummer Sergio, and bassist Kano, brought energy and potency to the last set.
Photo by Oisin Keely
Over a piscola, Dragonworks director Bernardita Ramos kindly explained, "Running a music school is a lot of work, but it comes with many rewards." Two members of La Pepa will attend Berklee College of Music Boston (US) this Fall. All of the bands have worked on albums and music videos, and most play live shows around town. She described the satisfaction that comes from helping students to combine their unique band vision with professional resources.
In the final moments of the show, La Pepa returned to the stage with a set of beloved, classic rock covers, leaving everyone pleased and humming along while they finished their beer.
New Classes and Workshops are on-going, check their website for a detailed schedule.