Sometimes, a little occasion arises that just rocks the world of Valley teens, giving them a sudden jolt of enthusiasm, excitement and thrill beyond words.
Such was the case last Thursday when actor and musician Drake Bell gave a performance and meet-and-greet at the McHenry Avenue f.y.e. store. Nearly 450 screaming fans – male, female, kids, teens and even some adults – gathered to watch Bell belt out songs from his new album “Ready Steady Go!” which was released just last week.
The album is a nod to rockabilly, which Bell describes as “stripped-down and revved-up rock ’n’ roll.”
Bell cites the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Stray Cats and Cat-gone-solo Brian Setzer among his biggest musical influences. In fact, Setzer worked closely with Bell as the latter crafted the new album.
For Bell, the opportunity to join forces with Setzer was golden. “All my biggest influences have been people who had a dream, had a goal, and saw it to the end,” he reflected.
Bell himself is no stranger to influence, as he captured the hearts of millions with his lead role on the hit Nickelodeon show “Drake & Josh,” which aired from 2004 to 2007. The show attained record viewership on several occasions, and Bell won 10 Kids’ Choice Awards for his performance as the sarcastic, spunky Drake Parker.
In a tribute to the beloved show, Bell ended the f.y.e. concert with the catchy “Drake & Josh” theme song. The entire roomful of fans belted out the tune along with him.
Following the concert, Bell signed autographs and took photos with the hundreds of fans who formed a line that snaked around the music store.
Some fans even requested re-enactments of well-known “Drake & Josh” scenes, such as one in which Drake Parker and stepbrother Josh Nichols energetically shout, “Hug me, brotha!” and run toward each other for a tight embrace. A couple of teenagers adopted the role of Josh for a few moments to get themselves on video lifting Bell in the hilarious bear hug.
Nat Rodriguez, a freshman at MJC who waited in line for an hour for Bell’s f.y.e. appearance, said, “I basically got to relive my childhood today. I used to watch ‘Drake & Josh’ all the time growing up.”
Concert attendees not only appreciated getting to revisit their younger years but also enjoyed getting a flavor of Bell’s fresh and original music. Olivia Gallegos, a junior at Beyer High, remarked, “Drake’s performance today was just phenomenal. I’m disappointed that it’s over.”
Such opportunities to meet and mingle with his supporters are something that Bell says he wouldn’t trade for the world.
“One of the highlights of my job is days like this, when I get to connect with all the fans,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to come and see that people are responding to the music in such a positive way.”
The response has been positive indeed. One fan, MJC freshman Justine Payton, envisions nothing but an upward career climb for Bell. “Drake has an awesome voice, and I believe his music is going to take him far,” she said.
Bell’s new album, which features favorites like “Sunny Afternoon,” “Makes Me Happy,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” as well as original tunes he co-wrote, retails for $9.99 on iTunes and can be purchased in stores.
With more than 3 million Twitter followers, sold-out shows across South America and a variety of interviews and appearances lined up, Bell is surely ready to rock this summer.
The key to all the success? His passion for his work, he said.
“I’m really fortunate and blessed,” Bell said. “Every time I wake up in the morning and every time I hit the pillow at night, I’m just loving what I do.”
Henna Hundal is a Turlock High junior and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom program.