Student band finds their groove in the blues rock world

The Bayside Blues Band only has three members so far, but they have a vision of developing into a much larger group, modeling themselves on the rock band Santana, which originally had a five-member lineup. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Various blues and Latin rock songs permeate the International Boba House every Friday night as people sit at small, round tables sipping on bubble tea. The room is dim, lit only by iridescent blue lights hanging from a corner stage.

Miguel Mockabee stands at the center as he plays his electric guitar while Connor McNeely sits to Mockabee’s left strumming. Ryan Walton chills in the back, maintaining the beat on drums. It’s a unique, calm atmosphere for a small band.

These three members make up the Bayside Blues Band.

Mockabee and McNeely both play the electric guitar and Walton plays the drums. Aside from jamming out in their free time, Mockabee and Walton recently enrolled in USF. Mochabee is a freshman psychology major and Walton is a freshman jazz major.

The guys met in October 2019 at the International Boba House. Only after a month’s communication, the group clicked and categorized their new band as blues rock.

Blues rock combines the genres of blues and rock, employing the use of mostly electric instruments. The main melody flows from the electric guitar player, creating an upbeat tempo, which distinguishes the genre from regular blues.

The band plays rock band covers from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, as well as blues band covers from all the way back to the ‘30s and ‘40s.

“We’re all over the spectrum of rock,” said McNeely.

Mockabee draws his inspiration from artists like Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Paco de Lucía.

Alternatively, McNeely draws his inspiration from Freddie King, Albert King and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. One of McNeely’s dreams is to someday play with Kingfish onstage.

The band chose to play blues rock because they aspire to keep the genre alive. According to Mockabee, “not many bands play blues rock anymore,” so the band hopes to revive the fading genre of music. Additionally, the less common genre helps the Bayside Blues Band stand out among other musical groups.

Most importantly, the band is passionate about blues rock.

“Blues is all about connecting with the audience because blues is all very emotional and it’s something that everyone can relate to,” said Mockabee. “It’s about going on stage and making fun of your sadness.”

McNeely chimed in. “The thing about the blues is that when you play the blues, they go away,” he joked.

The group enjoys playing at the Boba House because the crowd inside is just small enough for the performance to not feel pressured, but just large enough for it to still feel exhilarating and fun.

“It’s a relaxing setting. People are supportive here,” said Mockabee.

However, the band has their fair share of mishaps in the Boba House. According to McNeely, somebody yelled “you suck” at the end of their show, but the guys simply laughed it off.

Unpredictable inconveniences with the instruments also posed problems for their performances.

Both Mockabee and McNeely have had experience with breaking guitar strings — and having to play in front of an audience with a defective guitar. One time, Mockabee broke a guitar string, but fortunately nobody noticed it and he played the music just like normal. The guys “play around” the problem by utilizing different chords on higher octaves.

“I handled it like caramel, it was smooth,” said Mockabee about the incident.

The band has grown through having to deal with a wide range of audience feedback as well as musical issues. In only a couple of months, the guys now feel far less nervous getting up on stage.

“We’re more comfortable than we were in the beginning,” said Mockabee. 

They only have three members so far, but they have a vision of developing into a much larger band. They hope to establish a group like the rock band Santana, with a five-member lineup.

They want to “take it big” with their music and impact more people. 

The band will perform Feb. 17 at the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater for an Australian fundraiser. They have signed up to perform at Bullstock as well.

As the guys continue to develop the band and practice their music, many opportunities await them.