Hometown musicians: hold me, thrill me, kiss me, kill me!


U253-red-chairs-900Finalizing this year’s Curran Apple Orchard Summer Concert Series at University Place is a local U2 tribute band that promises to grab hold, kiss and thrill you on Thursday, Aug. 17 from 6:30-8 p.m. U253 is a high energy rock band that sings many rhyming lyrics like: “Dressing like your sister, living like a tart, they don’t know what you’re doing, babe, it must be art.”

“We are thrilled about playing in our own back yard,” said Erik O’Neil (first name pronounced “I+Rick”) who plays lead guitar, keyboard and sings. Both he and bass guitarist Greg Jacoby live in University Place and the band practices there too. In fact, their band is so awesomely local that it’s named after the South Sound area code.

“Ultimately we are family guys who have day jobs and we’re really having a good time playing this music,” said O’Neil. “It’s really fun to play and get the crowd reaction. We feel fortunate.”

Three years ago, O’Neil, with the help of his friend Jacoby, started up the band they would call U253. The pair had been performing together at the University Place Presbyterian Church and O’Neil, who was heavily inspired by U2 guitarist David Howell Evans (better known by his stage name “The Edge” or just “Edge”) presented the idea.

The two church musicians had previously discussed playing something beyond religious music but when O’Neil asked Jacoby if he would be interested in doing a tribute band, Jacoby actually replied, “I’m not really a U2 fan.” Fortunately, Jacoby lived long enough to give learning the music a shot. The church bass guitarist is now a huge fan of U2 and performs on stage as Adam Charles Clayton, bass guitarist from the world famous band.

Prior to moving to University Place, O’Neil had played in cover bands, including an original band when he lived in San Francisco. That band, Scarlet Theory, played cover music to pay for their studio, where they recorded CDs. After San Francisco, O’Neil hung up his guitar for a few years, got married and had some kids.

Once he and Jacoby started auditioning singers to build their U253 band, they found lead singer Tim Rades through a website called Bandmix (bandmix.com). “Tim came from Madison, Wisconsin, and had been out here for about four or five years,” said O’Neil. Rades had also played for cover bands and is now U253’s front man, singing as a tribute to U2’s Paul David Hewson, better known as Bono.

Yet with three highly talented musicians, the band was still not complete. It desperately needed someone who could play tribute to Laurence Joseph Mullen Jr. and that is where the start-up first suffered from hiccups. O’Neil said from his many experiences playing with different bands (and after watching the dynamics in other bands) that drummers have a somewhat different kind of personality.

“Our first drummer just didn’t work out, and the second one had four kids and his family commitments needed to be prioritized, and we understood that, but then we got a hold of Doug.”

Drummer Doug Davis connected with the band seven months ago through an ad posted on Craigslist and O’Neil said he continues to work out really well. Of all the songs the band plays, O’Neil said his favorite is “Where The Streets Have No Name.”

“When I first heard it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I got goose-bumps,” he said.

More particularly, O’Neil said he loves the way the guitar, drum and bass all work together in that song. “Rhythmically it can be a challenging song to play because of the effects that The Edge uses,” O’Neil said and then explained that The Edge uses a digital delay and for the song to work, the drummer must lag to be on those exact same beats per minute. “When it’s in sync it just feels really good but it is really easy to get out of sync, which is what makes Doug a super drummer.”

When U253 first accepted the gig in University Place, O’Neil thought thatp instead of making it just another evening of music in the Orchard, it should be a community-focused event. That’s why he invited 10-year-old community activist Julia Sandusky to be at the concert where she will be collecting gently used jackets for foster children. Sandusky, who will be attending Narrows View Intermediate School this coming school year, is already experienced in merchandising because, as an artist, she has been making art to sell at auctions and has used that money to buy even more jackets.

Then Families Unlimited Network, the local food bank that also provides after school tutoring, energy assistance, homeless prevention, budgeting and adult education, will also be there. According to O’Neil, they will have their van on-site to collect nonperishable food. Gardeners are also invited to bring any extra fruits or fresh vegetables from their gardens that they would like to donate.

The U253 concert happens at the Curran Apple Orchard, 3920 Grandview Dr. W. In case of inclement weather, the concert will relocate to the Curtis High School Cafeteria, 8425 40th St. W. in University Place.

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