Penn State Band Putting It All on the Table (Ten)
Table Ten is a band many Penn Staters have come to love. The original band, made up of Penn State students, was formed over two years ago in State College and they have continued to return, even after graduating and continuing to pursue their dream of a career making music. Table Ten now has a summer schedule littered with gigs across the Jersey shore, Maryland, and Delaware. I got the opportunity to catch up with Josh Corcoran and Antonio Parisi, two of the original three members.
Sitting down with Josh and Antonio was a fascinating experience. In addition to playing “seven gigs, six nights a week,” according to Josh, and preparing to fulfill a lifetime goal of performing at the Stone Pony in iconic Ashbury Park on August 5 with Rusted Root, a band that Table Ten considers an idol and inspiration, the guys still return to State College for Tuesday gigs at the Phyrst. Ten got the opportunity to play a show with Rusted Root at Tussey Mountain in May, but performing at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park is a different story.
“We do what we love — like playing with Rusted Root,” said Josh. “…I just wanted to get a tee-shirt there someday, and I can’t even believe we’re playing [at the Stone Pony].”
What impressed me most during my conversation with Josh and Antonio was that despite their growing popularity and notoriety, they admitted that they are only now beginning to find their identity as a band.
“When we did open-mic nights at the Phyrst, our friends supported us so we kept playing. Even though they were just there for us personally, it felt like we had a crowd. Now that we’re playing on the beach scene and in front of big crowds up and down the coast, we had to sign on with an agency.”
Table Ten has signed with Media Five Entertainment, which Antonio said is “very supportive of what we do, but didn’t have a band on its roster like us.” Having an agency is essential for booking gigs and networking, he said.
What music has influenced Table Ten?
“Honestly, we play everything and have tons of influences, which allows us to do stuff other bands don’t. Right now were playing circuits down the shore in Jersey, where we are competing with ‘Lady Gaga’-type bands and such, but we are trying to stay true to ourselves.”
How does a band get started in a town with a relatively small music scene?
Both Josh and Antonio indicated that the key to getting recognized is to start off by playing covers. “A lot of bands will get started and try to shoot for original stuff right away, and us, we came together and said, let’s get really good first, and then move on. You know, we’re still in the journey to finding an identity. In doing this, we got to a point where the songs we were writing were being enjoyed and we sprinkled them in with covers that people were already familiar with. No matter how great it may be, people, especially in the bar scene, want to hear stuff they know,” said Josh.
Antonio added that, “Our performance style is hybrid. We play our own original versions of cover songs people know, while giving them a new feel.”
You have to be careful playing cover songs though. Josh stressed the challenge of playing cover songs and mixing in originals. “When people start to hear a song they love and recognize, they associate it with a great recording from a famous musician.” The challenge for a band like Table Ten is to leave its mark on a cover but meet the expectations that come along with playing a familiar song. Mixing in originals between covers is their opportunity to share their identity and sample material. However this is challenging, too.
“You can’t just be good when you’re playing new covers of songs; your take has to hold up with the originals people love,” Antonio added.
What is the origin of the name “Table Ten”?
“When we first moved in together we didn’t have a dining room table so some fans of ours pitched in and got us a table from an old diner. They had it labeled ‘Table Ten.’ We also used to sit around after dinner and play music at the table.”
Does State College, and the Penn State student body, have a legitimate interest in new music, and is there a market for it?
“I think that there is, and with 40,000 students people are going to have interests, some of them let music come to them, and some go out and find it. I think honestly people don’t know that they CAN get that in state College. It is a combination of bands getting their material out there, but also having material that is worth finding,” Antonio said.
What has the role of internet and social media had on giving exposure to new bands?
“Today, bands can explode from demos, the Internet, and social media. Some bands, like MGMT or Vampire Weekend, can be successful doing this, but we play full time, three hours a night, all night. This is our job. We are putting ourselves out there a lot. Playing here and there is fun, but we are trying to make our way to bigger gigs and larger crowds.”
While Table Ten has a website, and are in an age when bands aren’t playing live gigs all the time, the band is apparently trying to get out there and do it the old-fashioned way.
This summer is an exciting time for Table Ten. They are announcing the addition of two new band members in advance of their Stone Pony Ashbury Park gig.
Jason O, who played with them at THON 2011, and Dan Collins, who plays with local rock-n-roll band Lowjack, will join the band. Table Ten is are thrilled with the additions that they feel will “add increased dimensions.” The band is hanging on the beach all day, playing three-hour gigs almost every night, which doesn’t sound like too challenging a life, but making a name for yourself in the competitive music community and earning a living as performing musicians is no doubt challenge. Josh and Antonio are doing what they love to do, and enthusiastic about the direction their music is headed. They have a sizable, and growing, fan base who will always welcome a return to Penn State.
Check out the Friends of Table Ten Website, and take a quick look at their upcoming shows when Table Ten is gigging at beach concerts in three states. Table Ten’s latest release is also available now on iTunes. To hear them live, anyone over 21 can catch Table Ten in State College at the Phyrst on Tuesday nights.