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Springfield's Simonfalls Competes at Battle of the Bands

An imaginary place, where life is good and worries evaporate with the mist of a waterfall, is where the music of Simonfalls is destined to take you. The soft rock influenced by Paul Simon and Bob Dylan is a far cry from the raucous, punk/heavy-metal/thrash music that blares out of the West Springfield High and Lake Braddock Secondary parking lots, where the band originated. But the music is different enough to land Simonfalls a spot in the Battle of the Bands.

"We have a lighter sound than most high-school bands," said singer Bryan Case, the only band member from Lake Braddock Secondary School.

Bryan is joined by West Springfield students Tommy Beekman on lead guitar, Dean Christesen on drums, and Max Brooks on acoustic guitar and vocals. They were the lead-off group on Friday, April 30, for the final segment of the Battle of the Bands at Fair Oaks Mall.

SIMONFALLS' three-song set started out with "Clay Hut Tea," a song "just about having tea in the desert," said Max. That was followed by "Fugitive" and "Ultra Mellow." Max wrote all three songs, with an assist from Tommy on "Fugitive."

"Max is into telling stories," said Bryan.

As the group set up in the middle of Fair Oaks Mall, passersby looked on with curiosity. The area filled with teens when the music started to flow. By the end of the first song, many onlookers were peering over the edge of the second level. Members of Simonfalls took it all in stride, having played in cafe-like venues such as Jammin' Java in Vienna and Starbucks in Springfield.

"I think passersby found it a whole lot weirder than we did," said Bryan.

Casey Coleman and Danielle Freeman were in for a Friday evening at the mall when they stumbled on the music.

"I like the fact that it's such an open area," said Casey. "It's a neutral area instead of a school."

Danielle looked around at the social aspect of the concert. Mostly dominated by teenagers, the concert area had some dancing and talking, not really paying attention to the music, while others pushed their way up front to see some of their fellow students jamming.

Random Hero was from Robinson Secondary School, while the rest of the line-up for the final segment of the Battle of the Bands included Black Line from South Lakes High School, SKA Face from Oakton High School, and ETC from Robinson Secondary. Malia Edgell from Burke was in to see her boyfriend, the lead singer of Random Hero, hammer out a few beach-sounding tunes.

"It's more like punk," she said.

Jessica Griscavage, a mall spokesperson, handed out ballots, and members of the audience made their picks. Then they had to take the ballots to one of three stores to hand them in. Each day, the three stores changed, giving an assortment of stores an opportunity for potential buyers.

THIS WAS the third part of a three-part Battle of the Bands series. We Say Goodbye from Falls Church won the contest April 16, Sight Unseen from Annandale won the second on April 23, and SKA Face from Oakton won last Fridays' contest. The three bands will compete on May 7 at 7 p.m. for a $1,000 prize. Griscavage was responsible for putting it all together.

"Shoppers are pretty excited," Griscavage said. "It's a great place for teenagers to play."

Melissa Vigen is the mother of Random Hero drummer Jay Vigen. She watched from the second level.

"I think it's great because they're out of my basement," Vigen said.

Adrienne Barna was cheering on her son, Brian, the bass player for Random Hero.

"What a wonderful opportunity," Barna said. "It's lots of fun."

Bryan Case was happy with Simonfalls' sound. He stayed to check out the competition.

"I was really happy with it," he said of the band's performance. As far as the voting was concerned, "it depends on what kind of people are here," Bryan said