By Ryan Javier
Photos by Jesse Garcia and Ryan Javier
DALLAS – On Saturday, June 13th, the grounds of Gexa Energy Pavilion played host to the annual Jack FM/CBSradioDFW Throwback Fest, which featured a multitude of the nation’s absolute best cover bands and tribute acts. Of the seventeen bands that performed that day, one band in particular caught the attention of our field reporters.
All Fired Up, comprised of teenagers, were quite possibly the youngest group of musicians at the Fest. But it wasn’t their age that set these kids apart, it was their extraordinary skill.
As with all the groups that performed at Gexa that day, All Fired Up is a tribute band. These amazing musicians chose to base their band on an artist nearly four times their age, the legendary Pat Benatar. All Fire Up was able to accurately reproduce the Grammy Award winning singer/songwriters distinct sound. More surprisingly, All Fired Up was able to embody the very spirit of Pat Benatar, which is an incredibly daunting task unto itself. The fact that these teenagers were able to do this and with seemingly little effort at all, could be considered All Fire Up’s greatest achievement. It’s also a dead giveaway that these musicians are definitely going places. The future is so bright for these kids, in fact, that sunglasses are a prerequisite when one contemplates the destiny of All Fire Up.
The troupe of emerging rock stars that make up All Fired Up are vocalist Taylor Baxter, axe man Keaton Harlan, bassist Kaia Davis and Jayson Rhoades on percussion. The band began in 2012 as a project in conjunction with the music school, For Those About to Rock, and since, the band has performed in such prominent venues as the Sambuca 360, the Remington and the House of Blues, among others.
After a captivating the crowd (as well as our reporters) with an energetic and awe-inspiring performance at Gexa, All Fired Up (AFU) was kind enough to answer a few questions from TTL’s Ryan Javier.
TTL: Thank you for allowing my colleague Jesse Garcia and myself the opportunity to shoot and listen. You guys rocked! How did you come to choose your setlist for the Gexa show?
AFU: We tried choosing songs that we knew would be crowd pleasers. Musicians tend to feed off the energy from the crowd, and we really wanted to pump them up.
TTL: All Fired Up is a great name! How did ya’ll come to choose that name?
AFU: We really wanted a name that had energy and sounded fun. We also wanted a name that we could tie into the whole Pat Benatar Tribute but [would] also work with our original music.
TTL: So the band was formed in 2012. Who were the founding members, who dropped out and who came on board after?
AFU: The original members are Taylor and Keaton. We were originally a 5 piece band, 2 guitars, drums, bass and vocals. When the original bassist, drummer and guitarist decided to leave, we chose to stick with just the one guitar. We bought on Kaia (bass) and Jayson (drums) as the newest members. Pat Benatar only has one guitar player, so it’s a little more true to the real band.
TTL: The track, All Fired Up, is a tune that you all don’t currently know but would like to learn. Is there a song (or songs) that you guys like and want to play, but are unsure if the audience would be receptive? Like a B-side or deep cut or something?
AFU: Actually we love playing Hell is for Children. Even though the song is a popular song, it’s a bit harder than some of the others songs. We think the nature of the song combined with it being sung by a 13-year old girl who repeatedly sings hell, may make some feel uncomfortable. The song really has a great message though; it’s all about ending child abuse.
TTL: You guys are all students at the For Those About to Rock school, which led to you all learning and performing classic rock, but why choose Pat Benatar? Were there other groups with female vocalists that you guys considered before choosing Pat Benatar (like Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Jefferson Airplane/Starship etc..)?
AFU: We take lessons from Darren Caperna (lead singer of Back in Black) [at For Those About to Rock] who also manages our band practices. We did look at some other options before deciding on Pat Benatar such as top 40. There are so many bands out there doing top 40; it wouldn’t set us apart. As kids, it’s already hard to get gigs at bigger venues, and we needed something to set us apart from the crowd.
TTL: What drove you all to take Darren’s classes in the first place?
AFU: Taylor [has] always enjoyed singing, and with Darren being her grandfather, taking lessons from him was just a natural decision. She’s been taking lessons from him since she was 6 or 7 years old. She originally just started off taking vocal lessons and performing a song or two at some of the school events, but she very quickly joined the band program.
Keaton was very young, 8 or 9 at the time, when he became interested in guitar and music. His family had a Guild acoustic and a Stratocaster kind of taking up space and that sparked it all. He wanted to learn some songs his parents listened to, so his Mom worked hard to find a place for lessons that fit his interests. As his interest and passion grew more, he developed the [desire] to master the guitar. He definitely doesn’t shy away from trying hardest guitar licks, but [instead] seeks to play it better and often does.
Kaia began playing guitar when she was 7, but while with a previous band, switched to bass at the age of 10. The transition to bass was a natural one. She began the ‘For Those About to Rock School’ after her previous instructor moved schools. This was also an easy transition because Darren is a great instructor who has taught her a lot about bass, bands, and performing. Darren asked her to join All Fired Up, and they have been rocking out ever since.
Jayson has been playing the drums since he was 9 years old. When his previous instructor moved, we found For Those About to Rock School. And just fell in love with Paul Brown and how well he teaches Jayson. Darren was looking for a new drummer for the band, and he thought Jayson would be the perfect fit.
TTL: You each basically lead 3 lives: Your life at school, a life outside of school and the band life. How do you find time for everything? How challenging is it, to find a balance between all that you do?
AFU: Yeah, I guess we really do. We all have something going on separate from band, but we enjoy playing on stage so much that we just make band practice happen. We all work really hard in our spare time. Even if we can’t practice together we are always practicing on our own. In addition, all the band members and the parents are friends, so that makes getting together for rehearsals fun. It’s important for the stage energy that everyone gets along and be friends.
TTL: How do you prepare for live show? What’s your pre-show routine?
AFU: We practice a lot before a show. We run through the entire set 8 to 10 times together the week before a show and at least that many times on our own. We try to practice guitars breaking strings or cymbals falling over just so we are ready when something does happen. The day of the show we don’t do too much, just try to relax and take it easy. Try not to think about it too much.
TTL: Your next live show will be July 11th at the Parker Co Peach Fest in Weatherford. Tell me about how y’all got involved with the festival.
AFU: The band got in contact with the entertainment coordinator for the festival, and they signed us up on the spot! We go on at 3pm, and we are excited to be playing there this year! We want to thank Bobby Clark, the festival DJ Event Coordinator, for the opportunity to play!
TTL: Will your set at the Peach Fest be different from the set at Gexa? Will there any surprises in store for the audience?
AFU: The set will be close to the same, but we are hoping to add a few more songs. We have about the same amount of time as we did at Gexa, so we won’t be able to do too much of a set change.
TTL: For someone that has never seen All Fired Up live… Describe your show and why one should attend.
AFU: The show itself is unique because of the ages of the band members. Taylor has a very powerful voice and a lot of people are surprised to hear that voice coming from a 13-year old. Keaton on guitars, Kaia on bass, and Jayson on drums – they’re all really awesome, and we love to rock out to great music! We give it our all to put on a fun and energetic show.
TTL: What are some obstacles currently facing All Fired Up?
AFU: Our biggest obstacle has been our age. We don’t get taken seriously, or we just can’t get in the doors because we aren’t 18/21. We’ve had several venues flat out tell us “No, you aren’t old enough.” It’s pretty common for us and our parents to get strange looks when we’re in a bar waiting to go on stage, but once we go on, everyone starts rocking out, and people realize why we’re there. We just want to play music that people will enjoy.
TTL: After you guys graduate high school and/or college, do any members have aspirations of pursing music fulltime? At some point would you guys like to be involved in an original project?
AFU: I think music will always be a part of our lives. We have such a passion for it that we can’t imagine not performing on a stage somewhere. We have already written one original song and are working on a second.
TTL: Where (besides at a live show) can someone buy merch?
AFU: The whole merchandising thing is pretty new to us, so we’re still working on how to set up an online store. We hope to get that up and running soon, but until then, keep checking our Facebook page for updates on the latest information!
TTL: and finally…are there any charities or organizations that you would like to plug?
AFU: We did a lot of work with Relay for Life last year. They were great! We’re also working with a local charity called Love Cassidy. They bring awareness to youth drug addiction and how it affects the whole family. We want to give back and help out in any way, and as much as we can! – All Fired Up
Be sure to visit All Fired Up on Facebook, like their page and don’t forget to invite all your friends to like the band’s page as well. The band has just released t-shirts, which are available through their Facebook page. Shirts are only $20 + $5 s/h and for a limited time, every shirt comes complete with an autographed photo. IM the band and order yours today! Hurry, quantities are limited!