Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve in Commack echoed with rock music Tuesday night as local teens head banged, jumped around the bandshell and cheered on their peers during the Smithtown Youth Bureau’s first Battle of the Bands.
As the kickoff to the bureau’s third annual Safe Summer Nights series at the park, four bands consisting of middle and high school aged teens competed for a package of prizes, including recording time in a studio, music lessons and local gift certificates.
Kelly DeVito, a board member on the Smithtown Town Youth Bureau, said Safe Summer Nights is geared toward giving teens in town an alternative to parties and other activities that may include drinking or destructive behavior.
Though each year of the series has been more successful than the last, DeVito said they wanted to amp it up this year, and came up with a way to showcase local bands.
“We had never done it before,” she said. “It’s a great way to bring the kids together, and also the rest of the community.”
Brittany Jaworski, 17, of Smithtown, was asked by a friend to help design the Battle of the Bands poster, and then decided to join the youth bureau after she attended a few meetings and liked the idea of the events.
“I thought it was really cool because it’s not something you expect the youth bureau to be doing because it’s like, ‘Oh that’s part of the government, it’s kind of lame,’” she said. “But they have a lot of high schoolers helping out so they can keep it kind of cooler and more geared toward high schoolers.”
Four bands -- Hopeless Romantics, Resistance, Glow Source, and Rendition -- performed a few songs each, both covers and originals, and were judged by representatives from Live @ Studios, Grace School of Music and School of Rock.
Rendition, the last band on stage, won first place, earning it seven hours of studio time at Live @ Studios in Bohemia, music lessons from Grace School of Music and an open mic night at Sertinos Cafe in Smithtown. All participants received gift certificates to Cornet Music and Dave & Buster’s.
Rendition’s lead singer Jonathan O’Kane, 17, of Smithtown, said the five-man rock band had already recorded its demo, but was hoping to get into a studio this summer to record an album.
“We’re kids in high school, we don’t have the most money,” he said. “Seven hours of recording time, that’s beautiful right there.”
O’Kane said the band started “pretty much at birth,” because it includes two of his cousins.
“Meatball night at grandma’s was also practice night at grandma’s,” he said. “We’ve been playing music together since we were about 8 years old.”
The band is made up of O’Kane’s cousins J.J. Hickey, 17, of Commack, and Gino Leocadi, 17, of Ronkonkoma; as well as friends Alex Blanc, 17, of Smithtown, and Jimmy Orsetti, 17, of East Northport.
O’Kane said even if they hadn’t won the contest, it was a great night out.
“It was a great show, we had a great time and we hope to be back next year,” he said.
Photo: Jimmy Orsetti, 17, of East Northport, plays with his band Rendition at the Smithtown Youth Bureau Battle of the Bands at Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve in Commack.