Although their genre of music is mostly affiliated with the 90’s, one Penn State band is the defibrillator to kick start the hearts of Ska fans everywhere. The Wondershop Showdown have been on the music scene since the Fall of 2010, but have clearly made a name for themselves within the past year.
After winning Movin’ On Battle of the Bands with Keegan Tawa, Wondershop Showdown went on to open up for Ludacris at Movin’ On 2012. Since last semester, the band has played venues like Darkhorse Tavern, the Phyrst, the State Theatre, and as many club functions or events that were thrown at them. Now they are entering another stage of their music careers by playing arguably the biggest show at Penn State: THON 2013.
I sat down with Kyle Ennis (Guitar, Trombone), Tim Gould (Bass), Mike Barker (Vocals), and Pat Rice (Trumpet) at Kyle and Tim’s house, where the band practices.
The band is comprised of give-or-take 11 members, but the development of the band was a very gradual process. Ennis and Gould met as volunteers at Movin’ On 2010 when Less Than Jake was the headliner. They were so blown away by the performance that they convinced each other to start up a ska band.
From there, they began to reach out to other musicians. Ennis was roommates with Barker, and also knew former drummer, Andrew Ryan, from playing shows with him at Songwriter’s Club shows. Tim knew Chaz Feitel (Guitar) from his floor in the dorms, as well as Casey and Alex Hesse from his high school, who were also in the Blue Band. By the time they finished their first practice as a band, they had already learned “Sell Out” by Reel Big Fish and wrote their song “2401.”
When I asked them where the name of the band came from, the four of them exchanged smirks and laughs around the room. “During one of our brainstorming sessions toward the beginning of our existence, we kept tossing around names and nothing caught on until [Ennis] randomly said Captain Barkdog and the Wondershop Showdown,” Barker tried to explain.
Ennis continued the story saying that it was all a joke at first until Gould suggested that if they dropped the Captain Barkdog, they might have had something to work with. Despite numerous attempts to go back and change it, somehow the name stuck.
The Wondershop Showdown has an eclectic style that makes them more than a ska band. The reason why their official genre is “Ska and Beyond” is because they fuse styles like Rock, Progressive and Alternative. Some of their biggest influences include Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, yet each member brings something new to the table.
“Different people in the band started collaborating and we expanded into other genres,” Ennis said. “We have developed as musicians, doing styles of music that we had never even thought of when we started this.”
The band is putting the finishing touches on their first full length album, consisting of 12 original tracks, four of which are re-recorded tracks from their EP. Even though they are still deciding on a name for it, they plan to release the LP at some point around Spring Break. The first couple of tracks are very ska-esque, but as the album plays out, it showcases the diverse sound that they possess. Some of the songs that will be on the album include classics like “Night at the Movies,” “Miles Ahead” (the album closer), and new songs like “Leave it Up to Chance,” and “State” which they consider their ballad to everything that has gone on in the Penn State Community these past few years.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hear any of their original tracks when they play THON next Saturday afternoon at 4:20 p.m. On the bright side, the band has lots of surprises in store for everyone who will be in the Bryce Jordan Center at that time. With a set list of covers submitted last week, each of the four guys I spoke to assured me that there will be tons of high energy, personality, dancing, and an active stage presence. They plan to get a lot of positive feedback from their performance, as long everyone at THON sings and dances along.
The same night after they play THON, The Wondershop Showdown will also be showcasing their talents at the Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg. This is an incredible opportunity for the band to introduce their music to new listeners. With the core members of the band facing graduation, the reality of entering the real world is hitting them like a ton of bricks. This next semester will determine their success in the music industry. Depending on how well their upcoming shows go and where the direction of the album goes, some of the members would be willing to roll with the idea of a music career.
For now, they are focusing on their studies and working toward graduation, which is the safe game plan. However, the band still believes that they have the potential to reach greatness. Pat Rice, who has only been with the band for a semester, captivated how it feels to be a part of the band.
“I think it’s amazing the depth of the chords we can produce with this band,” Rice said. “I didn’t realize the talent that was in this band. It’s freakin’ nuts!”