The line for 1716 wrapped around the block. It was Aug. 16, a rainy Monday night cold enough to give anyone without long-sleeves the goosebumps and the downtown bar was packed from front to back.
While a handful of opportune bar-goers huddled under awnings or shared umbrellas, a majority stood without cover. They braved the conditions as they waited to reach the bar’s wooden double doors.
Inside, two guitarists, one bass player and a drummer rattled the bar’s concrete floor. Centerstage, dressed in black and white zebra print, a girl with a microphone led hundreds of bobbing heads in tune. She sang, they screamed back, head-banging to Zeppelin and Nirvana.
This was Queen of Kings' first gig. Now, just two months later, the student band is selling out downtown venues.
Lead singer Cassie Vitale describes the 1716 show as a “fever dream."
Vitale, a junior in Auburn’s BFA Musical Theatre program, joined the band at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
At that point, Queen of Kings was not much more than a weekly jam session, but guitarists Mitchell Davidson and Jack Funderburk had been on the hunt for a lead singer. Still, the band was nameless, drummerless and had yet to perform their first gig.
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“Have you ever tried driving a car with no steering wheel? It’s impossible,” said Queen of Kings guitarist, Mitchell Davidson. “That’s what practicing without a drummer is like.”
It was in this unfinished state that Queen of Kings got its start. Their breakthrough? A 1716 gig opening for established Auburn band, The Stews. The invitation came shortly before the summer break of 2021. The band said "yes" without thinking twice.
“We didn’t even have a drummer yet, but we didn’t tell [The Stews] that,” Davidson said.
Scattered across the country for three months, the bandmates practiced their set list individually and prayed for the best.
Upon their return, the band had two weeks to prepare for the gig. They had a new drummer and three months to make up for. Just days before the show, they switched their bass player.
Current bass player, Jack Greenwald, recalled that he came to the “Queen of Kings History Book'' pretty late. Greenwald practiced with the band twice before taking the stage together.
“It was crunch time,” Vitale said, "but it was worth it."
The grueling two weeks were not only “worth it” in Vitale’s eyes; she insists that the first concert has been instrumental to the band’s success.
Since their initial gig, Queen of Kings has played seven different shows in less than two months.
Along with multiple appearances at 1716, they’ve performed at downtown venues such as Southeastern Bar and The Plaza at Midtown. They have participated in Auburn’s “Battle of the Bands,” and are now selling merchandise.
The next step? Queen of Kings says they are looking to begin producing their own music.
“We do covers right now, which is a really big hit at the bars,” Vitale said. “But I think we have the skill to take it further, perform at festivals and just try to get our brand out there.”
Although they plan to begin songwriting within the near future, the band does not foresee a change in their rock-n-roll brand. If anything, they believe that producing their own music will add to the sense of authenticity that makes Queen of Kings so popular.
The band said they will create their own music using the same rule they abide by when choosing covers.
“We play what we love,” said the band's drummer, Pierce Dickson. “We’re not trying to appeal to the masses. Playing what we love, and watching other people enjoy it, that’s the biggest thing for me.”
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