Student band readies for second show at Rat

What do you get when you combine the music of Led Zeppelin, Dave Matthews Band and Pearl Jam? Willard Hayes, a band featuring Colin Willard and Jon Mann, both students at the College.

Formed only one week before their first performance at the Rat earlier this year, Willard Hayes brings its unique musical approach back for a second show this Friday as part of the College Union Board’s Student Band Night. The event is from 5 to 8 p.m., and admission is $2.

Though a relatively new band, the quartet of guitarist and vocalist Willard, lead guitarist, banjo player and keyboardist Mann, bassist and recent University of Scranton grad Len Fedora, and Rancocas Valley Regional High School senior and drummer Cory Willard have been playing together in different combinations for years.

The most experienced band members, Willard and Mann, have played together at local Burlington county bars. Colin and younger brother Cory used to be in a band called Rigid.

With a combined 22 years of musical experience, the four friends from Rancocas Valley Regional High School finally decided to combine their talents. What resulted was a surprisingly fresh combination of different musical genres.

Like most young musicians, Colin Willard got his start because of a favorite song. “Dave Matthews Band actually really got me interested in playing music, but the sole reason I bought my first guitar was to learn “Blackbird” by the Beatles,” Willard said. “Then I was hooked.”

Citing influences from jazz to blues to rock to grunge, Colin Willard has trouble pinpointing exactly what type of music the band plays. From covering the hits of Led Zeppelin and Pearl Jam to penning bluegrass songs, Willard Hayes has a little something for every musical taste.

Anyone planning on seeing the band’s performance Friday should be ready for this kind of variety. The group tries to get an even mix of original songs and covers in its performances, but the band feels that any song is subject to change while onstage.

“Most of the onstage soloing is improv, to get more of a jam band feel,” Colin Willard said.

While the future is bright for Willard Hayes, the guys in the band are just happy to be performing. “We plan on sticking together and making more music,” Willard said. The band plans to record this winter and have a demo by spring. For now, though, it is the thrill of performing live that keeps the guys going.

This time around, Willard Hayes is just aiming for a good crowd reaction.

“Hopefully a lot of people show up to check us out,” Colin Willard said. “Our goal is to get some heads and feet moving and to hear some people sing along.”