Friday, September 26, 2014

HNC’s Behind the Music: The Story of MENergy

HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Tyler Makepeace is now pursuing the MA portion of his program in DC, but memories of his time in HNC's band live on:
Tyler, on guitar
On one of the first few days of orientation last year at HNC, two students gave a presentation about a talent show that was going to be held for the Mid-Autumn festival and they were looking for acts. Hengxue, my roommate, was very enthusiastic about forcibly drafting me into the show, though significantly less so when I said I would sign up on the condition that he signed up as well. I had taught myself guitar during high school, but had never been serious enough about it to have ever attempted to be a part of a band. The two coordinators put up a sign up sheet, which remained perfectly blank for the first day until Patrick Baine signed up as a drummer looking for other band members. Later that day, I met up with Patrick and Joe Plantamura, a bass player who had studied music in college, and by the end of the night we had gone from Patrick to over 6 members, Kevin Bond on lead guitar, Joe on bass, Josh Kim on vocals, and myself as rhythm guitar/vocals. We signed up for the talent show to do 像梦一样自由 and When I Come Around by Green Day.
After the HNC Opening Ceremony, we gathered in the cafeteria for a fancy buffet style dinner, where Kevin, Joe and I happened to be sitting at the same table along with Robbie Shields, the HNC's Career Counselor. Robbie proved himself invaluable after hearing that the three of us would be performing on Wednesday. Immediately, he said “Your band name is MENergy. The first album is 'MENergy', second album 'When The Heart Hurtz', the third album 'Live from the Three Gorges Dam', which is a charity album. After that, internal divisions will force a split in the band, breaking into a band of 2 and a band of 3, however many years later you reunite in a global concert, one band at the Three Gorges Dam, another at the Hoover Dam, linked by video feed”. So that’s how we got the name MENergy. 
After performing two songs on the 2nd floor balcony during the Mid-Autumn Festival, we decided to actually put in some time practicing before our next performance, the Halloween Party. We traveled around Nanjing to several different music stores in order to stock up on equipment and practice in sound rooms. For a costume, Joe bought a set of Xi You Ji outfits with the help of his roommate and the online marketplace Taobao. During the Halloween party, students and guests from outside the Center all dressed up in their costumes to celebrate the holiday, and after a contest deciding the best costume, it was time for us to perform. This occasion we managed to put together a set list of 8 songs, and performed on stage in the Center’s multipurpose auditorium.

MENergy at the Spring BBQ
After Halloween, MENergy went on a brief hiatus, mainly due to the upcoming finals, and then for the Spring Festival break. As the weather began to clear up in the middle of the spring semester, MENergy made its own contribution to the Center’s band room by investing in a full drum kit, in order to make practices easier. We all set time aside to practice for an 11 song set list for the long-anticipated HNC Spring BBQ, and in the meantime were invited to also play for the Australia-China Youth Association, which also held a BBQ in the Center.

However, we were most excited to finally do a show outside of the Center, organized by Li Xuemeng as part of her involvement in Nanjing University’s student activities. Originally, this last hurrah for the band was to be held in the middle of a water fountain located in the heart of Nanjing University’s Gulou campus, however, a rainstorm almost proved fatal to the concert. At the last moment, Xuemeng and the rest of us decided to move our venue into a nearby building, and so with the help of several student organizers from Nanjing University were able to move all of our equipment and set up in the building. Our friends and fans from the HNC, as well as a sizeable number of Nanjing University students cramped into the small space, and we were able to put on the best show of the year. As Kevin Bond was the only MAIS student in our band, he will be actively recruiting new band members for this coming year, and I implore prospective students to continue this new tradition for the Center.

Nanjing University even wrote a brief article about our final performance!