NATICK Many teen bands see bright lights and adoring crowds in their garage, basement or imagination.
For others who have that extra burst of talent and drive, theres a venue that delivers a real live audience as well as valuable experience.
Rock Off Main Street, at The Center of Arts on Summer Street, gives local bands a chance to perform one Friday per month, and has been doing so for 20 years.
Diane Young has been the events coordinator since it started in 1997 as Rock On Main Street, and the venue was a former storefront along yes, Main Street.
When TCAN first started, I approached (then-Executive Director Michael) Moran if there could be something for teens, she said.
Originally held every Sunday afternoon, Rock Off Main Street has been held one Friday each month for several years. According to Young, Friday night was easier to draw young people
Young estimates that 900 bands have performed for Rock Off Main Street, which remains one of the biggest all-ages venues in the area.
In addition to the bands, Rock Off Main Street includes a 15-minute opening act where local musicians and songwriters can perform their original works.
Young recalls several special moments from the past 20 years, including a marriage proposal.
Eddie Kane and his band, Massachusetts, was on stage about two years ago he proposed to his girlfriend right on stage, he said.
She also remembered the night in 2012 when all four bands performing that night did a tribute song to Levon Helm of The Band who had just died.
Throughout the past 20 years, Young has seen music trends come and go, but three things remain a constant the music, the need for an all-ages venue, and the support from family and friends.
The parents really support their kids dreams theyre there, she said.
Young also credits the corps of volunteers helping her run the event, including Linda Burgoon, Jay Frankudakis, Jude Farrer, Linda Bernfeld, Dan Goldberg, Stephanie Henderson, Travis Duda and Derek Jameson.
20th anniversary event
Members of some of the bands that first performed in 1997 will perform at the 20th anniversary free event planned for Sunday, Sept. 24, from noon-4 p.m.
The bands performing include The Whatever and A Night on the Sun from Natick, Blindspot from Lowell, Rising Nation from Sherborn, Left Hand Blue from Andover, The Kapps from Dedham and Company One from Westborough.
All these bands have played here before, said Young.
The event on Sept. 24 will serve as a reunion for Left Hand Blue.
As an added attraction, Neil Popkin, Diane Youngs son, will be coming from Los Angeles to perform an acoustic set.
Dave Vierling, who now plays for A Night on the Sun, was a member of Herself, one of the original bands for Rock On/Off Main Street.
I was 14 when I first performed Rock Off Main and I lived in Natick, said Vierling via email. I think its amazing that Diane has built Rock Off Main into a reliable place for yung talent all around the area to be showcased.
Most of Rising Nation, including siblings Amelia, Annabel and Benjamin Hodson-Walker, will be coming on Sept. 24.
My band started playing at TCAN Rock Off Main four years ago when I was in ninth grade, and we have been performing there ever since, said Annabell Hodson-Walker, who just started her freshman year at Boston College, via email. Diane Young is so supportive of developing bands and musicians, and we really appreciate the opportunity to perform in such a a great venue.
There are very few places where young rock bands can perform, she added. I write my own songs, and to be able to play them in front of an audience and see the reaction and encouragement is so rewarding.
Rising Nations repertiore on Sept. 24 will include two of her original songs, Hometown Street and Bad News.
TCAN Rock Off Main gave me more confidence in my guitar playing, stage presence and performing in front of an audience all in such a cool venue, said Benjamin Hodson-Walker. Rock Off Main has also opened the door to Berklee College of Musics summer programs, providing me with the amazing opportunity of attending songwriting and guitar sessions at Berklee in recent months.
Said Amelia, Rising Nations drummer, TCAN has given us the opportunity to play in a professional venue. The stage, the high-tech sound equipment and the lighting all make for a cool experience. The volunteers and tech staff are all very helpful, and Diane Young is a great supporter of rock music for school and college bands in the area.
Some of Rock Off Mains alumni worked in back of the house, running the sound and lighting equipment.
Its like a side internship, said Young, adding that several volunteers have gone on to Berklee College of Music and are now working in sound and lighting.
Local bands even pick up some marketing experience Young gives each band coupons good for a $1 discount off the ticket price. On performance night, Young and the volunteer keep track of the tickets. If a band draws 20 patrons, the band receives $20.
Its about exposure and experience, said Young, adding that social media has played a big role in helping bands get out there.
The 20th anniversary event, from noon-4 p.m., is free and open to everyone. There will be vendors and raffles.
Sponsors Music Go Round (main sponsor), Berklee College of Music Summer Program (sponsor of Rock Off Main Street for the past 10 years), Zildjian, Fair and Yeager
Vendors Listen Up, Bach to Rock, Centre Music House, Kathy Burg Creations, Plugged In, Five by Two Records, Indie Scene Radio, Encore Apparel Company, Color in Sounds Music and Arts Organization, Midnight Studios
Donors Mr. Music, Roche Bros., Kathy Prouty, Ted Kurland
For information, visit www.natickarts.org.