On one gloomy day in early February, three young men make their way into the back room of Letts Residence Hall’s first floor and begin to set up and tune their instruments. Band practice will start with or without all five members today.
Corey Schneider, a freshman in the Kogod School of Business, turns from his keyboard and cues for drummer Geoff Malloy, a freshman in the College of Arts and Science, and saxophonist Robert Lutz, a freshman in the School of International Service, to begin. Practice is underway.
Their name is CS5, but to a select few in the AU community, they shall always be known as the “GARC Band.” Yes, it’s true - there is a band whose very existence can be traced to the AU’s beloved Games and Recreation Center.
After Schneider’s solo songwriting garnered some immediate attention last semester, “everything just came together through word-of-mouth,” he said.
Some Letts South residents will remember the band fondly for its heartwarming, albeit loud, practices in the first floor’s lounge last semester. Now, thanks to a collection of noise violations and complaints, the five boys have relocated their efforts.
“Could you imagine having a full band playing next to your door?” said John Quast, resident director of Letts Hall.
“The bass used to shake the wall behind my bed,” said Tom Ports, a resident assistant on Letts South Terrace and a junior in the School of Public Affairs. Ports had even received noise complaints from second-floor residents while minding the front desk. “I’d always have to ask [the band] to turn it down.”
Prior to their prime setting in the GARC, this alt-pop quintet was running dangerously close to ruin, lacking an appropriate place to practice its music.
“Corey e-mailed me a while back and asked about practice space,” Quast said. “They had looked all around campus, even in classrooms, for a good spot and had no luck.” Quast offered up the GARC as a possible venue, and CS5 jumped at the opportunity.
“It seemed like it would be the perfect spot for us,” Malloy said.
They had a practice space, but they were still missing one piece.
The rain was coming down softly outside and four guys were hard at work jamming in the GARC. At this point, the only missing piece was bassist Keith Ingram, a freshman in SPA. The band, which has a heavy Dave Matthews Band influence, is used to working without everyone together. Between classes, work and the band, these guys have a lot on their plates.
But getting used to a rock band way of life has all been a learning process. For German-born Lutz, the saxophone may come naturally, but it also has proven to have its fair share of challenges.
Lutz “has never had the opportunity to play saxophone to rock music,” said Tricialee Friedman, a sophomore in SOC and self-described “temporary manager, graphic artist and press agent.” She’s been an integral force in CS5 since the beginning. Friedman’s job as a Letts Hall desk receptionist enabled the band access during GARC closing hours, which band members agree has been quite a blessing.
“We really love to play here during closing hours because it’s so intimate and quiet,” says Lutz, adjusting the strap on his saxophone. “We have the place all to ourselves.”
Their ability to practice freely has even made other students to take notice in the band’s activity. As it turns out, this unexpected locale has proven to be quite the versatile space, allowing the band the option of playing live shows on top of practicing.
“We’d ultimately like to be playing shows in the GARC once a week,” Lutz said.
Not only are CS5 playing GARC shows - they’re also moving up and out of AU altogether. The band recently played a gig at the Grog and Tankard on Wisconsin Avenue and have booked the same venue for Feb. 19.
By the looks of things, CS5 just might be taking AU - and D.C., for that matter - by storm. You’d better keep your eyes - and ears - peeled.