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Blues rock takes student band to battle finals

Courtesy of Joe Schutzman

Courtesy of Joe Schutzman

Joe Schutzman (left), Eric Torres (center) and Rio Van (right) of Rio & The Ramblers performed as part of the Madison Theater’s annual band challenge. The band will compete in the finals March 23.

John Flaherty, Contributing writer

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After placing first in the three previous rounds, NKU student Joe Schutzman’s band, Rio & The Ramblers, has made it to the final round of the 2012-13 Madison Theater Band Challenge.

In a competition that started with 65 local bands, Rio & The Ramblers is one of seven bands that will be competing for the top prize of $2,500, three days of recording time at Moonlight Studios and an opening spot for a national act at Madison Theater.

Winners from each round were determined by a 50/50 voting split between judges and fans, with two bands each from the Feb. 15 and Feb. 21 nights, and three bands from the Feb. 22 night of the semifinals round set to move forward to the finale, which takes place at Madison Theater in Covington, Ky. on March 23.

Rio & The Ramblers’ success comes just months after the creation of the band which was formed this past December by lead guitarist Ryan Snyder, 20, and drummer Alex Miller, 18.

The band soon asked Rio Van, 21, a senior at Xavier University to be their lead singer. Van, who has worked as a live performer for King’s Island Amusement Park, became the band’s frontwoman after a successful jam session with other band members.

Bassist Eric Torres, 19, a friend of Snyder’s from high school, was asked to join the band after filling in for several shows. When the band needed a rhythm guitarist, Torres asked Schutzman, 19, to play, completing the band’s current lineup.

“We still have a pretty small fan base,” Schutzman said, referring to the new band’s relative success. “We’re trying to build that up. We’ve had great support from our friends and our family.”

Schutzman is optimistic that winning the Madison Theater Band Challenge could introduce Rio & The Ramblers to a whole new audience.

“Hopefully it will help spread the word to new people who wouldn’t have heard of us otherwise,” said Schutzman about how the competition would affect his band’s popularity. “We really want to build up a fan base in this area and start looking toward regional touring.”

Rio & The Ramblers have been actively performing around the Greater Cincinnati area since they premiered at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Ky. this past January. They will return to the Thompson House in Newport on March 2, which is their final scheduled performance before the finale of the Madison Theater Band Challenge on March 23. Future gigs include sets in Latonia, Ky. and Richmond, Ind.

The band is hoping to record an album in May, when they head to Nashville, where they have booked time in a recording studio. Schutzman said eight songs have been written for the LP so far, with the band adding cover songs to fill out their live sets. Schutzman credits himself, bassist Torres and guitarist Snyder for writing most of Rio & The Ramblers’ original blues and rock material, but emphasizes the collective group’s talent for “feeling out” a song.

The band has several demos that showcase their brand of “blues-rock with a little twist on it,” which can be found at reverbnation.com/riotheramblers. For more information or to contact the band, Rio & The Ramblers can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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Blues rock takes student band to battle finals