Big Blitz looks to take its ‘noise jazz’ and Burrell High School roots on the road
They play “noise jazz.”
That’s how Big Blitz members Nick Grabigel, 17, and brothers Lucas, 18, and Mason Ciesielski, 16, describe their original jazz/rock/dance music.
The teens hail from Lower Burrell and formed Big Blitz in 2017, after meeting in middle school and later performing together at a high school event.
The trio are inspired by saxophone and percussion sounds, writing and performing all of their original tunes, which contain an electrified hip sound with jazz throughout.
Fans of busking, the friends still love to get back to their sidewalk roots, where they first developed their unique sound.
“Busking is playing in public for tips, and we do that when it’s warm out,” Nick said.
Nick plays guitar and drums while Mason plays tenor saxophone and synthesizer. Lucas is known to play two sax’s at once — both tenor and baritone.
Their friendship is evident as they rehearse as often as possible, working around Lucas’s collegiate schedule.
“That’s our new challenge now, scheduling our rehearsals and gigs since I went away to college,” Lucas said.
Forget the cliché rock band stereotypes portraying burned-out, hard-partying musicians.
“We have been offered drinks at clubs, but then we have to tell them no, we are teenagers,” Lucas said.
All three were inducted into the National Honor Society at Burrell High School and all maintain honor roll GPAs.
When asked if groupies are surrounding them yet, the boys laughed and said not really.
“We’re not big enough yet,” Mason said.
But then again, maybe they are.
“My fave Big Blitz memory to date is when someone from the audience realized that I had cut all of my hair off and screamed about it,” Nick said.
The boys credit their devoted parents, Jeff and Kathy Grabigel and Matthew and Jennifer Ciesielski, for providing guidance (Matthew is band manager), support, a rehearsal space (the Ciesielski’s living room) and a road-trip vehicle that is big enough to store all of the band’s gear.
“I know the kids are amazingly talented musicians, but I am most proud of their character,” said Kathy Grabigel, Nick’s mom. “They are humble and kind young men with great integrity. It is evidenced in how they treat us parents, each other, their music, fellow people in the business and their fans.”
Big Blitz’s first played in 2017 at the Millvale Music Festival.
They have performed at numerous Pittsburgh area venues, including the Rex Theater and Mr. Smalls Theatre and opened for touring acts including Moon Hooch, Too Many Zoos, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers and The Funky Dawgz Brass Band. Past out-of-state gigs include music festival performances in Ohio and Michigan.
“When they first started out by playing on street corners for tips, I didn’t imagine they would soon be performing for huge crowds in other parts of the country,” said Jennifer Ciesielski, Lucas and Mason’s mother.
“They have all earned their gigs through practice and their complete dedication to music, and that is especially awesome.”
Nick and Mason, juniors at Burrell High School, plan to follow Lucas’s lead, majoring in music and building on their Big Blitz successes.
Lucas is a freshman at Youngstown State University, majoring in Saxophone Jazz Performance.
“Lately, we have been trying our hardest to break away from Pittsburgh and perform and spread our music around,” Lucas said.
Next up? A March road-trip to Austin, Texas, to perform at the “Honk! TX” music festival.
“We would like to have enough success to tour internationally and share even more of our own music in other parts of the world,” Mason said.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.