Shirtless high school band serenades drivers on Highland - Entertainment

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Shirtless high school band serenades drivers on Highland

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Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:56 pm | Updated: 11:31 pm, Thu Sep 20, 2012.

A cacophony of blues, rock and funk permeates the streets of Highland Road every weekend, but it’s not the signature roar of the Golden Band from Tigerland.

The pulsing sound can be attributed to local band You Know Who, comprised of three occasionally shirtless high school sophomores serenading a crowd of passing cars in front of a garage.

J.P. Rivers, the band’s drummer, said the group started in seventh grade when he met Taylor Gordon, who became the band’s lead singer and guitarist. Rivers said after the pair stumbled upon a guitar, the two became hooked on playing music.

“We found this acoustic guitar in a trash can in the back of my neighborhood,” Rivers said. “We came over, and I turned some buckets over [to drum] with pencils, and we started playing.”

Three years later, the duo began to expand by adding new members and equipping themselves with “real” instruments. The last member to join was bass guitarist Kellen Cooper.

Cooper, 14, attends Lee High; Gordon, 15, attends McKinley High; and Rivers, 15, attends Baton Rouge Magnet High School.

Rivers said the trio regularly performs for people stuck in traffic on Fridays and during almost every home game on Saturdays. He said the band rarely plays on weekdays because of school.

Onlookers have taken notice of the three bare-chested band members as each road performance becomes more frequent and consistent, Rivers said. He said the group has gotten positive reactions from passing cars, including constant cheers and honks from enthused drivers. But he said the most bizarre response is when spectators throw money.

“We’ve had like handfuls of change tossed out at us.” Rivers said. “I mean, it’s pennies and nickels and stuff, but it’s hilarious.”

Rivers said some drivers even stop by and join in on the jam session, including a University student who came over and played jazz.

The trio’s impromptu set list is usually comprised of Jimi Hendrix covers and original songs, but the band always plays one signature tune, Rivers said.

“‘Use Me’ by Bill Withers is one of our favorites because our lead singer can really belt out the song,” he said.

Rivers said the band mostly plays original music written by Gordon, but some songs are a product of spontaneous creation during their time performing in front of Rivers’ garage.

Of the 57 songs Rivers has uploaded to his personal iTunes library, only 14 are covers, he said.

Rivers said the band has amassed a following — both on and off the streets of Highland. He said many of his peers have decided to start their own bands in response to You Know Who’s success.

“It’s kind of surprising because in middle school no one really wanted to listen to us because we sucked, but now we finally have a following.” Rivers said.

He said the band often collaborates with other groups in and around the neighborhood.

The garage isn’t the only place the band performs, Rivers said, as they have graced the stage of Here Today Gone Tomorrow and various local parties, including some of their own.

Rivers said the band aspires to perform at North Gate Tavern, but all of its members are under the required age of 16. When they come of age, Rivers said they will try to land a gig at the venue.

Before the year ends, the band wants to tour across the “sunbelt” or southern Louisiana because they have only played one show out of Baton Rouge, which was at one of the band members’ family gathering.

In the future, Rivers said he plans to fulfill his childhood dream of studying physiology at the University. Gordon wants to major in journalism and Cooper plans to study graphic design.

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