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Parking lot jam sessions gather students, bands

Moka the Band and The Johnson 38s are among the student bands that practice in the evenings at the Crescent Hill garage. INSTAGRAM/@mokatheband

The Crescent Hill garage, located along USF Holly Drive beside the Kosove apartments, houses cars of students, faculty, staff or daily visitors during the day. Some nights, however, the space is filled with music as multiple student bands use it as a practice area.

Students Karina Jose, singer, and Morgan Matlaga, electric guitarist, decided to make a band during the peak of quarantine — Moka the Band — and they now practice and host jamming sessions at the Crescent Hill garage.

“Everybody had to find hobbies together and our hobby was music,” said Matlaga. “It was something that allowed me to forget and find my own space.”

They took Matlaga’s love of coffee and the first two letters of their name to create the name Moka The Band.

Matlaga said they enjoy playing at Crescent Hill garage because their music is not “compatible” with the thin walls of a college apartment or dorm.

“The music can be pretty loud. The sound of my guitar and Karina’s voice will literally rattle the walls,” said Matlaga. “Moka the Band is also able to plug in their equipment such as their microphone and electric guitar in Crescent Hill as it is one of the few with working outlets.

“The best part about the garage is that you can hear us from the street. Sometimes people will come up to watch us or independent musicians will come and ask to join.”

The band is a creative outlet for Jose and Matlaga to heighten their college experience and the one of passersby and independent musicians, they said.

Jose said several freshmen and sophomores are finally getting to experience the college lifestyle and are discovering their band practices.

Anyone who shares an interest in music is welcome to play or watch Moka the Band perform, according to Jose. She said she feels integrating people to their practices has helped some students appreciate the college and campus culture.

“People will reach out through social media and say they are going to be practicing at the garage and ask if we are going to be playing,” said Jose. “There are a lot of students that want to be involved in what is going on in that garage.”

While practicing, a saxophone player entered the garage and played with Moka the Band throughout the evening.

“[The saxophone player] stopped by and played with us [on Oct. 21] and it became a big jam session,” said Matlaga.

Matlaga and Jose said they always look forward to meeting new people and playing with other bands. The Johnson 38s — whose band members are students Jason Guerrero, the bass player, Tzurigel Garcia, the drummer and Miguel Mockabee, the guitarist — is one of them.

“We want to play music for some people who want to hear it,” said Mockabee.

Gathering at the Crescent Hill garage Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings for three hours on average, The Johnson 38s members usually play blues-rock. A practice for them is running through the songs a few times and playing new ones, as well as playing with other bands and individuals in attendance.

The garage, according to Mockabee, allows them to easily practice together as it provides the necessary electric outlets and space.

“The first week when school started, we were practicing and another band came. It was uncoordinated and they started jamming. Since then, we’ve had regular Friday jam sessions in the garage,” Mockabee said.

Mockabee said he also enjoys playing at the garage because of its accessibility that lets the band play spontaneously.

His love for music has accompanied him during college and has allowed him to entertain fellow students and decompress from classes, he said.

“Music is a really big part of my life and a stress reliever,” Mockabee said. “It’s a great way to connect back to earth.”

At the parking garage, Matlaga and Jose said they enjoy the challenge of taking on difficult songs and creating their musical blends. As independent artists, they create their own music by combining high-energy songs with rock.

Both musicians have a deep-rooted passion for music they use to contribute to campus culture. After reflecting on her childhood experiences, Jose said she wanted to use her talent and skills to create music with a message.

“I want to cross-cultural boundaries and unite people who feel lost,” Jose said.

Matlaga said their purpose for making music and spreading it publicly is to obtain the sense of community that was lost over the course of the pandemic.

“Music is a universal language,” said Matlaga. “We want to bring people back together after a year of separation.”

Either to jam to their music or watch the sunset at the top of the garage, Jose said anybody is welcome to stop by and enjoy the music.

“Whenever you perform you have to make people feel what you’re feeling. That’s the magic of music that can’t be compared to anything else,” Jose said.

She can be heard singing into the microphone on Thursdays and Fridays after 5 p.m.

Moka the Band is open to jamming with musicians and students across campus and is open to messages about meeting up to play on Instagram.

“I’ll take any opportunity to play someone. Especially someone who can play the harmonica,” Jose said.

Mocakabee said he enjoys how other musicians are starting to join in their jamming sessions and thinks the bands that play in the USF parking garages have a noticeable impact on college culture. He said that more musicians are now entering parking garages to play across campus and the state.

“I have a friend at FSU who heard what we were doing and said that he might start playing in the parking garage as well,” Mockabee said.

During school and quarantine both The Johnson 38s as well as Moka the Band have used music as their vents to destress. Now that campus has returned in person, both bands hope to see more people jamming to music and coming together to play in the future.

“Playing music on campus with students and band members is a great way to bring people together and enjoy college,” said Mockabee.