One of the universal truths of the music scene is that guitar players tend to attract each other. Alex Antonellis (Harwich, MA) was looking out of his window in the fall and saw Grady Allen (Shepherdstown, WV) trudging across the quad with a guitar case in tow. Alex ran out of his dorm and before long, Alex and Grady were busy jamming, sharing ideas and talking about their love for different forms of modern rock music, particularly heavy metal and grunge. They enlisted a singer and a base player and signed up to play at an open mike night at the Dublin community center.
Unfortunately, two of the band members couldn’t continue and the two hard rockers were one short of a trio. While two players can work for some musical forms, the foundation of heavy metal is the semi-lethal triumvirate power of a shredding guitar, thumping base and driving drums. Grady was willing to play the drums but they were one short without a bass player. While they dreamed of more, they were limited without a bass player.
Then the completely unexpected happened… salvation in the form of a young woman who joined the school at mid-year from Beijing, China.
Jingying "Rachel" Zhong says that like many Chinese kids, she started playing the piano at four or five. Her focus was on traditional and classical music. An adventuresome spirit though, Rachel thought it would be “cool if a girl played the guitar.” Guitar players are pretty unusual in Beijing and finding a teacher took her a while. There were limits for her in terms of finding anyone else to play with. Descending on campus, Alex and Grady discovered Rachel’s affinity for the guitar and quickly convinced her to take up the bass and to join their band.
They decided to name the band after a Union Civil War unit - Colonel John T. Wilder’s mounted infantry brigade, the fabled ‘Lightning Brigade’. Wilder was a progressive military thinker who created the first mounted infantry. By buying his men horses and the first Spencer repeating rifles, he created a brigade with greatly enhanced mobility and firepower.
That combination of mobility and firepower reflects the music that Lightning Brigade is creating. Alex’s fevered guitar licks filter over the driving bass/drum combo of Grady and Rachel. Lightning Brigade is busy writing their own music and practice two to three times a week (at least they say!) in the Dublin recording studio. The excitement for their music bubbles out of them as they talk about their ambitions. They talk about cutting an album in the fall and adding another singer if they can. They believe that they have a “sound for today”.
At spring coffeehouse, they debuted in their new form to the Dublin community. Starting with their self titled song “Lightning Brigade”, they rocked the coffeehouse audience. It won’t be the last we hear of Lightning Brigade.