As the early Ohio springtime began the process of bidding winter goodbye, we ventured out to Howland, where local dynamos Blue Siren were playing a show at Up a Creek Tavern. We already knew the Creek was a great place to get dinner, and we were excited to finally take in a Blue Siren show. We had been hearing a lot of positive buzz about them, as their shows were beginning to draw large and enthusiastic crowds. The MV Night Out team was expecting a great show, but Blue Siren surpassed our expectations as they launched their first set with power and steadily ramped up the energy throughout the evening.
Randy Stan’s drumming sets the tempo for Blue Siren, and he does a masterful job of driving the band through its sets. Stan brings a style reminiscent of the great 70s rock bands with their great drummers who did more than keep time for the other musicians. The entire band plays off each other very well, and Stan reacts to where his bandmates go every bit as much as they play off the beat he sets. Our valley is blessed with a lot of great drummers, and Stan certainly showed he deserves to be named among them.
Blue Siren brings something unique to the table with Danny Shapira: a proficient keyboard player. Much like great bands such as Genesis and Yes who created a signature sound by blending great keyboard work with strings and percussion, Shapira fills the spaces between power chords with melodies and terrific hooks. There is a certain something a great organ/piano sound brings to a band, and Shapira brings that to Blue Siren in a very big way.
Guitar players tend to be flashy and enjoy the spotlight in most bands, but Larry Christopher eschews the usual theatrics to concentrate on his proficient guitar work. He combines perfect hooks with excellent solos in a steady, consistent manner.
As the rest of the band ventures into unexplored territory, Christopher is the rock that keeps them anchored in place. Much like John Entwistle did for The Who, Christopher plays on regardless of what’s happening around him.
When vocalist Stacey Ayers takes the stage, everyone in the room knows it. Ayers brings an incredible energy to the band, and her powerful, yet melodious voice ensures everyone in the immediate area knows Blue Siren has arrived. Much like Ann Wilson or Freddie Mercury, her voice has the raw power that allows the band to attack any song and conquer it. Her presentation is fearless, yet she never has a moment where she is not 100% in sync with her bandmates.
Bassist Jen Carey is an excellent player. She is a small woman who brings a huge bass sound to Blue Siren. She works in perfect tandem with Stan to provide the rhythm for the band, and her style somehow works perfectly with Shapira’s keyboards to create a unique sound. Carey sings lead on several songs, and she belts out rockers with the best of them when she steps up to the mic. Her blue hair brings a striking visual to the band on stage as she drives confidently through each set.
We sat down to talk with the members of Blue Siren over a few beers at Longboyz, and it was truly a pleasure getting to know them. Everyone in the band is warm and friendly, and it was obvious they love what they do. The band has been around for a couple of years and enjoyed reasonable success in the past. But with all due respect to former members, it is this current lineup that has taken the Mahoning Valley by storm. Having to find a new lead singer on short notice, Carey placed an ad on Craigslist and found Ayers.
“I listed the ad in the wrong section,” Carey said with a laugh. “We were lucky to find her.”
Ayers had to learn the songs on the fly and the band never missed a gig; playing all of their previously booked shows on schedule and continuing on with new bookings. With their new lineup in place, Blue Siren saw a transformation begin to happen as they played their ensuing shows.
“Our audience used to be mostly middle aged to older,” Stan said. “Our current lineup has seen younger music lovers joining our fan base.”
The band tried out six singers before finding Ayers, and her extroverted stage persona strikes a stark contrast to her polite, quiet personality. Ayers says she learns to connect emotionally to a song before she knows how she will sing it, and it was obvious this approach creates dynamic vocals for the band. Ayers and Carey give Blue Siren two attractive, talented frontwomen, and the rest of the band is free to focus on driving the Blue Siren sound that is creating such a buzz in the local music scene.
The old cliché about bands with female singers is “find an attractive female or two, put them in little outfits and parade them around while the band plays and collects a check at the end of the night.” This couldn’t be further from the truth with Blue Siren. Not only are they great musicians, but they put on a fantastic, structured and well-rehearsed show. They bring a lot of energy, passion and vocal harmonies to create a perfect chemistry that works incredibly well. They cover old hits and fuse them with other songs to create unique pieces that audiences love. When the band launched into a cover of the 4 Non Blondes classic “What’s Up?,” Ayers’s powerful voice resonated in every corner of the venue as the crowd enthusiastically responded. The crowd stayed with them throughout the night as they knocked out one great song after another, and the band did a masterful job of keeping the energy high without wearing out the audience.
“Relationships end, people die, but music is forever.”
Blue Siren is a full-time job for its members. The band has seen better gigs, better pay, and bigger, more enthusiastic crowds with its current incarnation. Stan and Carey have been writing original material as the group continues to grow together. One thing that was clear during our interview was the obvious love the bandmates have for each other. They show an obvious affection for each other, and they make you feel very welcome amongst them.
“We are some of the funniest people you’ll ever meet,” Stan said. He held Carey’s hand while the rest of the band nodded their heads smiling in agreement.
Blue Siren may have five members taking the stage, but their sixth member is their sound technician, Nate Mackey. The musicians on stage depend on him to make sure the Blue Siren sound is sharp and focused, and they acknowledge him as an important part of the band. Audiences are oftentimes unaware of how important the people behind the board are to the band, and Blue Siren knows just how much he means to them.
Like the rest of the amazing music scene here in the Mahoning Valley, Blue Siren’s shows attract a warm, friendly crowd free of troublemakers or any sort of unruly types. That doesn’t mean the band doesn’t have a few wild stories to tell. Everyone in the band plays a wireless instrument, so the members will sometimes leave the stage and wander among the crowd as they play. Ayers told of a time where a stranger lifted her off a table where she was singing Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and carried her around. Another time, a guy started stroking Carey’s feet as she stood in sandals at the edge of the stage singing. Even with the occasional crazy incidents, the members of the band love their fans and enjoy performing for them. The old saying goes, “Find a job doing something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Blue Siren has an obvious love for music, and they pride themselves on bringing it with everything they have each and every show.
“Relationships end, people die, but music is forever,” Ayers said as the rest of the band agreed with her. Truer words have never been spoken.
Up a Creek was a thoroughly enjoyable venue to watch this show. It has more of the feel of a restaurant than a bar, and the menu offers much more than the typical wings and fries found elsewhere (although I did have the hot wings and found them to be very good). Up a Creek is located on Warren-Sharon road in Howland, just off the bypass. The crowd was friendly and the service was excellent. We would recommend it to anyone, so go check it out!
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