Against Odds, Local Band Public Alley Wins WBRU Rock Contest

by | Apr 9, 2015

Public Alley, from left: Max Fertik, Noah Barreto, Cameron Cianciolo, Zoe Hinman and Szabi Kiss.

Public Alley, from left: Max Fertik, Noah Barreto, Cameron Cianciolo, Zoe Hinman and Szabi Kiss.

They were the wild card, literally. But Public Alley wowed the crowd and the judges at WBRU’s Rock Hunt Finals last Saturday and won.

“It was very unexpected, to say the least,” said Max Fertik, the band’s drummer and unofficial publicist. Unexpected because they are all teenagers and the other three older bands with a lot more playing experience.

Public Alley – EGHS seniors Fertik (drums), Noah Baretto (vocals/guitar) and Zoe Hinman (vocals), EGHS junior Cameron Cianciolo (bass), and Tollgate alum and MIT freshman Szabi Kiss (piano) – had entered the annual competition at the last minute and, when they weren’t initially selected, that was OK, it was all part of the experience, Fertik said. But then a friend told them about the Wild Card spot, chosen by the number of votes a band got and Public Alley was off to the races (including getting written up on EG News here).

They won the wild card, earning a place in the finals against Most Dangerous Alive, Forest Fires and We Were Astronauts, at the Met Cafe in Pawtucket. Public Alley fans turned out.

“It was great to get people to come out for this – friends and family. We not only rallied the school to vote for us, but so many of them came out to see us,” Fertik said, referring to EGHS classmates. But it was up to Public Alley then to make it happen … which they did.

Here’s how WBRU recapped the finals:

“The band looked overjoyed to be on stage; their enthusiasm radiated into the audience and throughout their innovative, genre-bending, guest-artist-studded music. The voices of lead singers Zoe Hinman and Noah Barreto blended and complemented each other beautifully, in a way reminiscent of The xx. Towards the end, though, keyboardist Szabi Kiss stole the spotlight with an incredible rap-cum-piano solo. The final song, “Loretta,” was greeted with cheers, sing-alongs, and calls for one more song.

“Our local celebrity judges – featuring, among others, 2014 Rock Hunt Champion The Rare Occasions – deliberated; the rest of us bided our time. Public Alley had surprised everyone in the audience with their energy and legions of fans, but we had all fallen in love with Most Dangerous Men Alive, Forest Fires, and We Were Astronauts during their Rock Hunt interviews and performances. At last, the BRU staff made the announcement: Public Alley is the 2015 Rock Hunt Champion!

“For the first time in recent memory (maybe ever?…), our online fan choice wowed everyone in the room and claimed the Rock Hunt crown.”

It still feels a little “surreal,” said Fertik.

“Winning the wild card was one thing. Being the underdogs and blowing away these 30 year olds, that was another,” he said, noting that the other bands were really nice to them. We Were Astronauts even asked them to play with them in Boston.

“It felt nice to be treated as equals with these guys,” said Fertik.

Fertik, Hinman and Barreto have been great friends since freshman year. They got hooked up with Kiss last year through their producer, Dave McNally, a Warwick resident who let the band use his recording studio. Cianciolo joined the band a few months ago.

Other local musicians and EGHS alums have played with them on different songs – such as Heather Shen’s violin on Loretta.

“We love to get our friends involved as much as we can,” said Fertik.

He said they’ve all been avid listeners of WBRU and, coincidentally, the WBRU birthday bash was the first thing Fertik, Hinman and Barreto did together freshman year.

“Now we’re going to open for it,” he said, of the annual November event.

The only trick there is that four out of the five band members will, by then, be in college, most likely outside Rhode Island. But they will work it out, said Fertik.

“This showed us, this isn’t the end of Public Alley. This reassured us that we are talented and people do like us,” said Fertik. “We have potential.”

You can follow Public Alley on Facebook here and listen to their music on Soundcloud here. They will be playing in WBRU’s Summer Concert Series at Waterplace Park this summer too.

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