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Band's big break could come this weekend

--- International music competition's latest round in Milwaukee

Sarah Kessler/Contributor

(Published June 21, 2007, 1:12 p.m.)

Perhaps some star quality from past shows by John Mayer, POD, and Mudvayne will still linger on The Rave's main stage when local band The Age of Alchemy steps onto it this Friday.

"It's gonna be the most amazing thing ever. Probably half of the shows that I've ever seen have been on that stage," said Ryan Rammelt, the band's lead singer.

After three successful rounds in a worldwide battle of the bands, The Age of Alchemy will get to play a 20-minute set at the national semifinal round in Milwaukee.

Emergenza Music Festival, which started this annual competition in Rome 15 years ago, gives the international winners six weeks of top production at Roastinghouse Studios in Sweden and provides venues, complete with sound technicians, for all rounds of the competition.

This is the second time The Age of Alchemy has entered, although last time they didn't get past the first round-an instance they feared would repeat itself.

"The first round was 21 and over only, so it was hard to get a big crowd there," said Andy Schopen, the guitarist.

Members of the band grew up in Jefferson, and the youngest, bass player Jim Mesmer, just graduated from Jefferson High School this year.

The oldest, guitar player Eric West, is only 22. The band was worried that a lot of their friends and fans would not be able to attend because of the age restriction, and, since the first three rounds were determined entirely by audience voting, that this would be a problem.

"It was basically our parents and a drunk guy at the bar (at the first round), but you've got to do it," Schopen said. "And we were fortunate enough to move on."

After the band narrowly qualified to advance from the first round, the battle took on a different tone.

While only 124 votes were cast at the first concert, 617 were cast at the second. The Age of Alchemy still managed to finish in the required top half of the votes at both the second and third round.

On Friday, there will be a panel of judges at the concert which will choose a single band from the top half of audience votes to compete at nationals in Chicago.

Even if they get eliminated, the band said they still hope to benefit from the experience.

"Record labels, radio stations: these kind of people will be there as judges," said Schopen. "So, even if you can't win, you can still get some kind of record deal out of it."

One thing Schopen thinks the band has working against it is its genre.

"The odds are stacked against us all of the time because of the kind of metal music we play," he said. "I mean, the first time we were in it, I don't think any metal bands made it past the second round."

But still, they hopefully insist, they're different than most other metal bands.

"We're not your normal, what you picture as a metal band," said Rammelt. "People think we're kind of weird because we play this labeled metal thing and we're still on stage climbing through each other's legs."

"We're pretty much goofballs," added Schopen, who said he often plays while wearing a superman cape and refers to Rammelt as the man with the "choir voice."

They're sitting at what they fondly call "our booth" at a family restaurant, and, as they shoot playful insults at each other across the table, it's easy to imagine frequent similar scenes occurring since they started as Jefferson High School students three years ago.

"Obviously getting popular and letting people hear your music is always something you want to have happen," said Rammelt, who is moving to Wyoming next year to pursue a music theatre major at Casper College. "But, for me at least, it's about writing music with a group of your friends...there's not anything cooler in the world than seeing people, whether it's 10 people or 100 people, singing a song that you wrote...It's surreal, really."

Friday, according to the band's facebook promotion, should be "...the biggest show of [their] life so far," and, after 3 rounds, there should be plenty of people in the crowd who know the words well enough to sing along.

IF YOU GO
What: Age of Alchemy at the Emergenza Music Festival
Where: The Rave, Milwaukee
When: Friday, June 29, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15

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