Not every rags-to-riches rock band story is created equally.
For the ordinary, there’s “got bass, vocals, drums and a guitarist?” For everything else, there’s Power Born Rebellion.
“We’re really real people,” said Eric Ness, the front man/vocalist for the band who sheds the shirt and tie he dons by day to expose the rock ‘n’ roll alter ego at night.
Fondly referred to as PBR, theirs is a story that begins as humbly as any not-so-ordinary story might: four musicians who all grew up on government cheese, meet and form a band in 2010. They decide to call themselves Power Born Rebellion “because rock by definition is rebellion,” said Stacey Gilley, the bass player.
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The group is comprised of Ness (vocals), Gilley (bass), Kenny “Turbo” Koonts (drums) and James Magilton (guitar) and had all the elements of success with enough humility to keep them all showing up for their day jobs and going home between gigs. Ness, for example, says he is up at 5 a.m. daily, weed whacks his own yard on the weekends and promptly returns telephone calls and text messages.
Equally accommodating (and covering tattoos in the name of professionalism for their day jobs) are Koonts Gilley and Magilton who, when they met Ness, were part of a well-known “working band called Lucky 13,” said Koonts.
“I moved to South Carolina from North Carolina in the early ‘90’s and (I’ve) been playing (music) for over 30 years,” said Koonts.
And like the burn that comes from moonshine made right, they won fans, referred to as Hellions, influenced a sponsorship from Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and finished 42nd in a Hard Rock Cafe Battle of the Bands among a voting pool of more than 12,000 bands worldwide.
As continuity and the norm kept colliding, PBR released a single “Killing Machine” in 2012 with plans to produce an album later that year.
Koonts, who said he’s “always known the right mix of chemistry is hard to find,” also said “It (the group) started off great.”
“It was a good concept, good music and the Hellions ate it up … we’re all high energy and fun – on or off the stage.”
And then, the beaker broke, so to speak.
“Eric got a wild hair and thought he could do it on his own,” said Koonts.
Prior to the front man fleeing, the “break-up wasn’t all that nice,” said Gilley; it had become evident to fans that something was amiss long before it was announced Ness was leaving.
“If you remove yourself, people see it, they notice,” said Gilley.
Aside from the fans, the one who probably noticed most was Ness, whose romp with reality included realizing his latest venture after leaving Power Born Rebellion didn’t include the same elements as before, the chemistry he was used to with his former bandmates.
“We were assembled by talent, not by chemistry,” said a disappointed Ness of his new band.
Faced with finding a new lead singer, Koonts, Gilley and Magilton “wished Ness well” and “chugged along” with plans to extend their fan base by traveling more with “nothing but hard work and [more] music to come,” Koonts said.
However, “It’s hard enough to find a singer much less the “front man” in the band (and one who has as much energy to jump around and dance like Ness),” said Gilley, who noted “we went through so many [lead singers], and at one point we said ‘we sound like [expletive], what’s happening?’”
One day while Ness was in Thailand, he received a text.
The former band mates talked, set up a meeting and not long after Ness returned home, the boys gave the fans what they’d been hoping for and anticipating.
“We all bit the bullet, worked out our differences and gave the peeps what they wanted: a reunion,” Ness said.
With a (marketing) plan in place, new releases and the kind of chemistry that’s now said to be seen along with heard, everyone appeared ecstatic.
“Stacey did lick my face last night,” said Ness the day after a recent show during the Harley Davidson motorcycle rally in the Myrtle Beach area in early May, but quickly conceded it was all in “freaking fantastic fun.”
“I feel blessed, honored and lucky,” he said.
Now, “It’s a family extension: musicians are more emotional, it’s (kind of) like being married to three guys ... that chemistry thing, it’s weird,” Gilley added.
“I think we’re all happy (now),” said Gilley.
“That chemistry thing” is in full swing and ready to rock; PBR played to a packed house twice during bike week festivities at Suck, Bang, Blow and also performed at Throttle Fest at the House of Blues, Beaver Bar and the Rockin’ Hard Saloon.
Described as “phenomenal” for the “standing-room only performance” that “pulled people inside,” SBB manager Bill Barber said, “They’re a great group of guys and great musicians, it was the best bike week we’ve had in years.”
With the band’s “Middle Class, White Trash” EP gaining momentum and available worldwide, and catchy singles touting titles such as “Pretty Flowers,” “Bill Collector,” “Medicated Smile” and “Killing Machine,” PBR is committed to “striving to pull to the top,” said Ness.
“Ness had LSS for a little while – that’s ‘lead singer syndrome’ for those who don’t know,” chuckled Barber, “(but) I hope they go places, they’re almost there.”
While Ness noted “I have the best day job ever,” he also admitted, “I’d give it up in a minute.”