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Music writer Garrett Wheeler stumbles onto the next big thing—and it's still in high school.

By Garrett Wheeler

New Talent on the Block
We Saw Them When Sometimes you hear a band and everything makes sense. These are the ordinary cases in which, upon listening to a couple of songs, you can place the group into one of a number of categories based on age, genre and popularity. But on occasion, there comes a band whose sound defies easy categorization and whose appeal is undeniable. You'll notice these extraordinary bands by the unbroken attention their audience gives them, and by the multiple encores demanded after their set. Also, if you want to do a quick post-performance interview, ye shall know them by the throngs of eager female fans flocking around the lead singers. Berlinrose is such a band. The Monterey County alt-rock outfit burst into the Catalyst Atrium Thursday night, along with prog-jammers Samaria, and put on a show that surpassed any act seen I've seen in recent memory at the small stage venue. Impressive, to say the least—these guys had more talent than an all-state jazz band. Immediately the questions began forming. Who were they? What were their ages? How long had they been around? Though the evidence pointed toward their being no more than high-school underclassmen, I wasn't convinced. They were too good, their sound too tight. And then a defining statement gave them away: "My school does this Christmas-gram thing," announced the lead singer in between songs. "I'd like to give mine to a special someone, and she's sitting right over there." Say no more, I thought to myself while 50 teenage hearts were broken to smithereens.

Their sound fits somewhere into the post-grunge, alt-rock genre, with traces of pop and punk interspersed, but like most great bands, Berlinrose doesn't really belong to any pre-determined grouping. Led by Alfonso Magallon on vocals and guitar, the band's sound ranges from raw, guitar-based aggression to heartfelt ballads doused in emotional angst. Magallon, known around campus as The Fonz, possesses the coolness of his namesake without the pretense, and is blessed with a voice that croons with enough boyish charm to make the birds squeal with glee—and believe me, they squealed. For a band that's only been together for one year and has yet to cut a full-length album, Berlinrose seems poised to become one of the area's biggest draws. Check out their MySpace page for upcoming gigs (though none were posted at presstime).

Touch of Crepeness Meanwhile, Wednesday night at the Crepe Place saw a much more relaxed part of the rock & roll continuum, with singer/songwriters Amanda West and Elizabeth Jonasson serving up some relaxing tunes to complement those delicious crepes. After Jonasson's smooth keyboard set, West strapped on an acoustic guitar and sang through an evocative set list reminiscent of the queen of adult folk-pop herself, Sarah McLachlan. Sitting at the bar munching my crepe du jour, I overheard conversation between two men that seemed worthy of print, given the impressive quality of West's performance. "Wow, this girl is soooo good," says Guy No. 1 with wide eyes and a bobbing head. "Yeah," concurs Guy No. 2, "this song is like a haunting lullaby, it's so beautiful." And it was. West's flowing prose and intricate melodies were as alluring as—as the scent of thin pancakes coming from the kitchen. Mouth-watering? Oh yeah. Look out for her Feb. 16 CD release show at the Cayuga Vault.

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