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This bus isn't made for the road

From left, Ryan Richardson, John Trent and Jason Clackley spend the afternoon rocking out in Trent’s garage. Thier band, Bus Seventeen, has played at over 40 local venues in the past three years.. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
From left, Ryan Richardson, John Trent and Jason Clackley spend the afternoon rocking out in Trent’s garage. Thier band, Bus Seventeen, has played at over 40 local venues in the past three years..
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

Jason Clackley is a maniac.

On the surface, the black-haired, bespeckled 17-year-old leads a normal life — attending high school at Central Kitsap High School and working afternoons at DJ’s Music — but when the weekend comes and he steps up on the stage to play rock and roll, he just loses it.

Take a gander at him — standing close to the audience, his black guitar strap biting into his shoulder. He sways with his head bent toward the mike.

“No light in the morning.

No light in the nighttime.

Its been such a long year,” he sings.

His voice is careful on the opening lyrics, like they are the most important words he has ever said.

Most of the songs start out slow and then explode, leaving Clackley with his mouth cracked open in a real live lion roar.

You almost feel embarrassed for him.

Then he roars again.

Slowly, Clackley gains the respect of every person in the audience.

Ever since he started the band Bus Seventeen with a few friends a couple years ago, he has led one of the most energetic, gripping rock and roll shows in Kitsap County.

That’s Gavin Tiemeyer with the sticks in his hand behind Clackley.

He’s got his own tiger stomp on the drums.

“I’m a timekeeper and a pile driver,” Tiemeyer said. “We’re a big improv band, so I kind of have to be the one who keeps the band in check.”

To the left of Tiemeyer is John Trent on guitar, a smile creeping on his face.

Hunkering in the right corner is the bass player, Ryan Richardson. He joined the band last year. Occasionally he peaks out at the audience from underneath his baseball hat. He prefers the shadows.

He’s also the thread that sews the band together.

Flanking Clackley, Richardson and Trent seem calm and collected — they lean and sink into their instruments and zone out.

“When I’m calm I’m more concentrated on what I’m playing,” Trent said.

For them, the rock started rolling in eighth grade. That’s when Clackley and Tiemeyer first jammed.

Although Clackley had been playing guitar since fifth grade, Tiemeyer had just gotten a drum kit, and they both needed a lot of practice.

“I was playing on an acoustic guitar with distortion on it,” Clackley said.

“It sounded horrible.”

Since then, they found a bass player, kicked him out, grabbed up Trent and Richardson and have played about 40 shows around town.

They earned $500 for winning a “battle of the bands” contest in a Bremerton bar last week, and next week they are going to spend the money to record a full length album.

They want to use it as a business card to get them shows, and also give it away to fans.

For the members of Bus Seventeen, it’s all about the fans.

All four high schoolers like playing music because of the reaction they get from the audience.

“A lot of times you can see people singing along and moving around. It makes you want to move around too,” Trent said.

Although the band receives their best compliments from the older crowd, they usually crack out tunes for kids ages 16 to 18 because they have the most energy.

“With some people they don’t even acknowledge us at school and then they see us at a show and they’re talking to us in the halls,” Richardson said.

“I was Christmas shopping in the Mall and I had two people come up to me and say ‘Woah, your band is great.’ ”

Although Bus Seventeen has over a dozen original songs and enough rock in them to start a quarry, they don’t envision themselves playing on MTV someday.

“I never really thought, ‘I am going to make the big bucks playing music,’ ” Clackley said. “I always thought I would have a day job and then have the fun part at night.”

A booking agent has been pressuring them lately, telling them they are going to make it big and catch some cash, but they don’t want to hear it.

Clackley might try to get a job doing audio production or engineering someday. Richardson is a science fanatic; he loves chemistry classes and subscribes to the “The Scientific American.” Tiemeyer wants to study film. Trent is considering studying computers in college.

But until they go their separate ways, being in Bus Seventeen remains a full time commitment. Nights are sacrificed. The guys can’t hang out as much as they’d like. And sometimes they feel like they’re married to each other.

“When you are in a band for a number of years you really start to get to know each other. You have to watch out for petty little fights that mess things up,” Tiemeyer said.

Here’s hoping the marriage lasts for a long, long time.

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