Modstock photos by Keaton Crowder The band Without A Cause – crowder –

Graceada Park was host to the second annual Modstock this weekend, a festival of guitar-slinging, lyric-shouting, bass-pumping youths and adults, playing everything from classic rock to heavy metal. The event started at 10 a.m. with the younger groups on the Mancini Bowl stage and carried over into the night, when the older bands emerged, including The Who tribute band Whodunnit.

Ages varied from as young as 7 to the more experienced 40- and 50-year-old rock stars. With a variety of vendors, including the Modstock Merch stand, and a great lineup on stage, Modstock brought a singularly rollicking atmosphere to Mancini Bowl.

Darrin Morris and wife Kristie Morris, founders of the Valley Music Institute and coordinators of the event, were constantly involved in announcing, managing and even playing in some of the bands. VMI is a local music program for people of any age to come and rock out together, founded in the summer of 2009 as a “backyard idea for a summer program.” As more and more students came, however, the garage bands continued the entire year.

“I thought we were going to have three or four bands a summer,” Darrin Morris said. “Then all of the sudden, we were having 70 bands.”

Rockers, organized into bands based on their preferences and age, rehearse at Gottschalk’s Music Center before making their stage appearances at local hot spots, including the Fat Cat Music House & Lounge.

Guitarist Jojo Jorgensen, 18, has been with the program almost since its backyard beginnings. He started the program to “rock out. It is really cool to have a place to just to have fun and experiment.” One of the older and more experienced members of the VMI group, Jorgensen has played in many area bands, spanning Dixieland to death metal. “Rock is one of my favorites because you can play really loud,” he said. “And that is cool.”

Fellow guitar hero Christian Boyatt, 15, also has had an amazing time with VMI since he started the program three years ago. “VMI is great because there are not a lot of rock groups out there,” Christian said. “Here you can just rock out and get a lot of experience.”

Darrin Morris is sort of the Jack Black of all trades, making sure VMI shows go smoothly. Saturday, he served as emcee, backup bass player and emergency conductor, among other roles. “I see myself as a skinnier, poorer Black,” Darrin said, referring to the comedic actor whose hit movies include “School of Rock.”

But for him, the program is more than just a fun rock session, Darrin said. “It is great for the kids to have a group where they can come to play in a moderately good group, but be an integral and important part of that group, and the parents can see them and appreciate that.

“Other orchestras and bands have the kids stuck in a group of mixed ability, and sometimes they are not as well seen or heard by their parents or themselves. It allows the students to grow more.”

Kristie Morris added, “The students develop this fearlessness that comes from stage time, which is great, not just for music. And parents can see their children and almost live out their own dream of being a rock star through their kids.”

While there were a large number of parents in the audience, some were performing on stage, right after their kids finished.

Not only does VMI provide musical experience, it allows teens to participate in one of the few ongoing music groups in Stanislaus County, Kristie said. “These groups like VMI are incredibly important now that music is decreasing in the schools. Music is important for everyone, and we love to give that to the community.” From top: Without a Cause plays at Modstock; Megan Robertson leads The Resistance; at left, Christian Boyatt in front of Modstock merchandise.


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Thanks, Darin

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