This is another in a series following up on stories that made headlines in 2011. We wrote about The Brighter Side winning the Repository’s annual Battle of the Bands competition for the March 6 edition.
They may have the blues musically, but the Brighter Side had nothing to cry about in 2011. It was a year of triumphs and crazy fun for this outstanding local teenage band.
Things started happening in early February when the guys traveled to Tennessee to perform at the 2011 Memphis International Blues Challenge, a prestigious opportunity.
“We saw blues bands from all over the world, and we played for audiences from all over the world,” says Fuad Farah, 15, a Jackson High School sophomore who is the Brighter Side’s skilled guitarist. “It was a great experience. We connected with a lot of people down in Memphis.”
Shortly thereafter, the Brighter Side won The Repository’s Battle of the Bands at Canton’s Palace Theatre with a rousing performance that wowed the young crowd and judges.
“That was one show where I was really afraid to go onstage,” confesses Jake Friel, 15, a GlenOak freshman who is the band’s powerhouse vocalist and harmonica player. “We knew we were super tight on those songs, but we didn’t know what 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds were going to think of the blues. We just went out there and started playing, then I heard the screaming and thought, ‘OK, this is going to be fun.’ ”
“Not only did we win, but blues kinda won, too,” Farah said.
The hard-practicing Brighter Side — whose other talented members are GlenOak sophomore Noah Simionides, 16, on bass, and Mount Union University sophomore Keith Wilson, 19, on drums — steadily built its following with full-tilt performances at First Friday, the Jackson-Belden Food Festival, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Ribs Burnoff and other events. The guys have played an array of area nightspots, including the Main Street Grille, Barrel Room, Nathan’s Patio Bar & Grille, The Auricle, Legends Sports Pub and Puckers.
Possibly the most exhilarating Brighter Side show of 2011 was at the Canton Blues Festival on June 11. The band was tapped to open for the evening’s headliner, Ronnie Baker Brooks, after the scheduled opening band had a tour-bus breakdown.
“The place was packed. It was the largest crowd we’ve ever played to. We always go to the blues festival to watch the bands, but then we got to play onstage,” Farah says. “We were a little nervous, but by that point we’d played so many shows, we decided to go out and have fun with it. That’s where our experience helped us out.”
“We came off the stage and we were four feet off the ground, we were just so excited,” Friel recalls.
The fun wasn’t over yet. Near the close of his headlining set, Brooks walked backstage, handed Farah his wireless guitar and sent him out to finish the show with Brooks’ band. “You can find it on YouTube,” Friel says. “It was the coolest thing ever.”
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Following a breakneck summer performing schedule, The Brighter Side slowed things down when school started. All four guys are busy with academics and extracurricular activities, plus they’ve been working on writing original material for their debut album. They have seven songs so far.
Looking back on the past year, both guitarist and singer feel The Brighter Side has made big strides musically. Playing 46 gigs in one year will do that.
“Looking back at videos from our first shows, I get embarrassed,” Farah says. “All the experience we’ve had has matured our playing a lot and given us a lot more confidence.”
“The amount we’ve grown personally and as musicians has been unbelievable. We’ve got our own sound now,” Friel says. “I just love playing harmonica and singing, and the guys behind me are my three best friends. It’s the best job in the world.”