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If you were to visit all the clubs featuring live bands on any given night in Niagara Falls, it's doubtful you would find a band like Stemm. Nor would you witness the high energy, youth-oriented scene that comes along with such a band.
That's because there are virtually no clubs featuring live music that allow minors, the very people that make up most of Stemm's fan base. Most clubs in Niagara Falls feature only cover bands and only allow those ages 21 and over to come in.
Stemm, an aggressive hardcore band, was formed in the summer of 1998 by Joe Cafarella, Russ Martin and Jimi and Louis Penque. All of the members, with the exception of Louis Penque, had been involved in the Buffalo music scene for years.
"There is no scene for our type of music in Niagara Falls, so we had to go to Buffalo," said Cafarella.
The bands' music is a blend of edgy, hard hitting bass lines, hardcore metal guitar chords and hip-hop style vocals. These elements come together to create a highly charged, bass driven music. It also inspires the audience to participate in a mosh pit atmosphere, popular with young people.
"The clubs in Niagara Falls are pitching the music scene to the wrong people," said Cafarella. "What Niagara Falls needs is more all-ages shows, because it's the kids who are tuned in to what's original and good."
But the lack of all-ages shows in Niagara Falls, combined with club owners who want only oldies bands to play for their older crowd, force the kids to either head to Buffalo or stay home.
"There's a great music scene in Niagara Falls, but only if you're a cover band," said Jimi Penque. "It's sad, because there are so many good bands in this area."
But now it looks as if Stemm and other bands may be forced to create their own music scene here in the Falls.
"The music scene in Buffalo was hot back in 1992," said bassist Russ Martin. "But now the scene has crumbled. I would love to have a good scene in our hometown."
Not only is it in the interest of local bands for clubs to start putting on all-ages shows, but it would be beneficial to club owners as well, the band members said.
"The clubs are losing money not having all-ages shows. When it's all-ages the people come out in droves," said Cafarella.
Local club owners who may fear the rowdy, in-your-face environment of a Stemm show, anticipating fights or damage to their establishments, need not worry, he added.
"Yeah, we're loud, in-your-face and intense, but in two years of playing out we've only witnessed one fight, and the people involved were immediately kicked out," he said.
Stemm recently added a fifth member to the band, guitarist Rich Spalla, another veteran of the Buffalo music scene.
"The music scene is stagnant in Niagara Falls, but it's there and it's ready to explode," said Spalla.
For now Stemm will keep working on creating a Niagara Falls music scene by putting on their own all-ages shows. Stemm will be headlining a four-band all-ages show on Sunday, Aug. 20th at the American Legion Hall at 19th St. and Pine Ave. in the Niagara Falls City Market. The doors open at 5 p.m. and the cover charge is $5.
Fans who can't wait for their Niagara Falls show can check out their Web site at www.stemm.net.
"We respect the fans and the fans respect us. All we need is someone in Niagara Falls willing to give original music a chance and a venue for our fans, the young people, to see us at," said Cafarella. "I really do believe there's a music scene here, and we're going to break it open one way or the other."