By JENNINE ZELEZNIK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- The gazebo was empty.
Instead of young band members preparing for a concert, little pink fliers let people know that Exit 14 -- originally supposed to perform in the middle of the Eastwood Mall -- had been moved.
The previous band in the four-week series had been too loud, so the rest of the series is being staged in a less-populated part of the mall.
In a narrow corridor past Dillard's, Daniel Van Kirk, 17, Jameson Reham, 18, and Craig Reho, 17, were frantically setting up mikes, instruments and speakers for a concert scheduled to begin in less than 45 minutes.
"Anyone want some Wendy's?" asked self-described "band-aide" Jennifer Arok. Her boyfriend -- Reham -- plays lead guitar.
As the guys tossed orders and money Arok's way, Bobbie Brown still scurried around the equipment, trying to hook everything up in time.
Showcasing young bands: The Tune It Up series is the brainchild of the Trumbull County Fine Arts Council to give young bands a chance to showcase their talents and get experience in an acceptable environment.
Brown, council director, pushed back a strand of silver hair.
"These kids have just got to learn," she said, her voice full of frustration. She bent over and began duct-taping an orange extension cord securely to the floor.
Though not completely happy with the change of venue -- "All the old people bark too much," Van Kirk said -- Exit 14 still wanted to do well.
Fifteen minutes to go. Arok returned with the food. The band was in position, putting together the final touches.
"Check," Van Kirk said into the microphone, his mouth full of french fries. "Check, check."
The guys launched into their first song, but when Van Kirk stepped up to the microphone, no sound emerged.
"There's a short," Exit 14's manager called out. "I'm trying to fix it."
Van Kirk continued talking into the microphone.
"I can't hear anything, nothing, nothing," he said, becoming increasingly frustrated.
"Mom?" his voice cracked.
His mother, Donna, shook her head from her seat in the audience. Still no sound from the mike.
"It's fixed," the manager finally called out.
"Check?" Van Kirk's voice boomed over the audience. "Well, there's still a buzzing sound, but let's play anyway. We're gonna try to have some fun here."
The small audience cheered and the show went on.
Fans love it: "I think they're really good," Matt Tokarsky of Canfield said. He had never heard the band before.
"No, they're spectacular," his friend Scott Summers argued. The Boardman resident had seen the band before and liked them.
"I am really cheap on gas," Summers said, grinning, "but I drove all the way from Boardman to the Eastwood Mall to see Exit 14."
Jessica Rush of Howland stood with a group of her friends, bobbing her head in time with the music. The 16-year-old saw the band during the Page One Rock-Off last month (which they won) and now likes to see them whenever possible.
"They got screwed on the sound tonight," she said, shrugging. "They're a really good band -- they should play more often."
Her friend Laura Tish added, "And put out a demo."
"That would be awesome," Kaleena Clark, 15, said. Then she giggled, "I think they're hot."
Sixteen-year-old Zoe Mocker also finds the band members attractive -- especially Reham. She wishes, though, that the concert had been on a weekend.
"More people would have come," the Howland resident said as she munched on purple Pop Rocks. "A lot of people really like them.
"Plus, it's summer. We have nothing else to do."