LACONIA — The son of a drummer, Bret Loring began laying down beats as a young boy, but recalled that apart from sitting in with his father seldom found opportunities to play with other musicians, let alone musicians his own age. This summer Loring, who with his wife Krista owns and operates the Paradise Beach Club at Weirs Beach, has provided young, aspiring musicians in the Lakes Region with the venue and opportunity he once longed for.
Loring has opened the club to the "Rookie Rockers" every Wednesday evening, between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. when anyone 18 or younger can play their instrument or sound their voice on the stage.
"It was something we'd talked about," Loring remarked, "But it really came to me this year."
Loring said that he wanted to do something for kids in the community who were interested in playing music. He approached the Police Department and the School District, both of which have sponsored the program. He arranged with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission to put his liquor license in "safekeeping" from 10 a.m. on Wednesdays until 1 a.m. on Thursdays, agreeing not to serve alcohol at the club during those hours. "We cover up all the alcohol and some of the pictures," he explained, "to make club as kid friendly as possible." All children and adolescents are welcome, but must be accompanied by a parent.
"It's a kids jam," Loring said. "We provide the drums. The amps. The monitors. Mic up everything and I'm at the mixing board," he continued. "We give them a sense of playing on a big stage. Make them feel like rock stars."
Clutching his drumsticks, Jacon Marshall, 13, was the first to arrive this week. At the club a week earlier he discovered that Dedric Salway, 14, a classmate at Laconia Middle School, played guitar. After playing together for the first time, the two spent the following week rehearsing the Green Day classic "When I Come Around" in anticipation of returning to the club.
Before long Jacob and Dedric were joined by Alex Amann, 16, of Gilford, a bass player, a second guitarist, Brady Ellsworth, 13, Northfield, making his first appearance at the club, and another drummer, Tyler Dixon, 10, of Meredith.
Jacob sat patiently at the drum kit while the others tuned their instruments and adjusted their amps. Loring, assisted by Gordy Gourlay, who teaches drums at Greenlaw's Music Store, tended to the sound system and mixing board, between visits to the kitchen where he grilled burgers for the moms and dads in the audience.
Jacob hit the beat and the newborn band plunged into "When i Come Around." The second time through, Gourlay remarked "the kids are just finding their way." Tyler took a turn on drums, moving his father to remark "he's more comfortable up there than sitting here with us."
The original quartet turned to jamming. "Jacob and Alex laid down a beat, we chose a key and played,"Dedric said. Both Brady, who was playing for the first time outside his bedroom, and Dedric traded leads flashing their fingers along the fretboard. Before long classic rock gave way to electric blues as the boys hit their stride.
By 8:30 p.m. a girl rapper who was expected had not arrived and talk turned to finding a singer. "None of us sing," Dedric confessed.
Apart from providing a venue, Loring, who counts a number of professional musicians among his friends, hopes to "call on some big names to come up and meet the kids." He said that he knows drummers who have played with Boston, Alice Cooper, The Tubes, Extreme and other well known bands who he believes would be willing. "It would give the kids something to look forward to," he said.
In addition, Loring said he may approach a recording studio about donating some time to offer the kids a taste of how to put together a recording. "They could learn to record a song.
Loring is as excited about the venture as the kids. "I look forward to Wednesday nights more than Friday and Saturday," he remarked. As the band played, he paused between the kitchen and the table, looked to the stage and said "isn't this great! They're becoming a band and making friends.It's my dream come true."