Area bands head to Rock Off Final Exam

By John Benson

Someday after doctors cure cancer, male-pattern baldness and flat feet, they should spend their time examining exactly why teenagers love ska music. The Jamaican-based genre, is a precursor to reggae, offers upbeat rhythms and pop-ish melody lines that nowadays often have a punk influence. For some reason, the music inspires kids to pogo dance uncontrollably for hours.

To witness such behavior, all one has to do is take in the Final Exam Rock Off set from Lakeview High School group Two Days Until Tomorrow — trumpeter Josh Chordas, trombonist Joe Nidel, saxophonist-singer Alex Miller, drummer Seth Hughes, trumpeter-vocalist Jerry Runyan, singer-guitarist Frank Toncar and bassist- vocalist Zach Nussle — scheduled for 9:10 p.m. Feb. 11 at the House of Blues.

“We’re like ska-punk rock, and we did a lot better at the Rock Off semifinals than we thought we’d do,” Toncar said. “That was only our third show ever as a band. For a lot of members, that was the first time they played in the Rock Off, so they were nervous. I wasn’t nervous because that was my third year. But I thought we played great. I think we made it to the finals because of our stage presence and like just the fact most people don’t really know what ska is.”

The band’s set list includes original songs such as the energetic “Ska in Your Pants” and the upbeat “The Baboon King Plays Songs of Love,” as well covers of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” and Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight Tonight.” Naturally, Toncar said the band’s influences are Less Than Jake, Real Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto. That’s pretty much as predictable as asking a 3-year-old if they like Elmo or a Nickelback fan if they were dropped on their head as a child.

As for Two Days Until Tomorrow’s chances of winning the Rock Off, Toncar said, “We have a pretty good shot. We throw out a lot of energy and our music is really catchy.”

This year Toncar has doubled his chances of winning it all by playing with Two Days Until Tomorrow as well as with last year’s Rock Off People’s Choice Award- winning band Burkley, which performs at 5 p.m. Feb. 11 at the House of Blues.

The biggest difference for Toncar is Burkley has tons of experience. The pop-punk outfit has been playing in the Youngstown area honing its chops for the past year.

“Everyone in the band is really excited for the Rock Off,” said Toncar. “Going from the Lemon Grove to the House of Blues is kind of like a big jump.”

Among the songs the Green Day and Offspring inspired Burkley plans on performing are the aggressive “Jenna” and the up-tempo “So Much Better.” There’s also a cover of Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” that Toncar said blows people’s minds.

“It goes great because we have a heavy section in the middle when we all do like synchronized head-banging and stuff,” Toncar said. “It catches people off-guard and really gets the crowd excited.”

So does Toncar think Burkley could win it all this year?

“We have a pretty good shot too, and we’ve been there before,” Toncar said. “If we did win it all, it would just mean that all of the hard work we’ve put in over the years would completely pay off. It would be the best.”

Tickets for the Final Exam tickets are $10 and will be available only from the participating Rock Off bands. For more information, visit

More like this from

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.