The Tapples Rock Boston

March 18, 2024
Taking the stage at Rockwood Music Hall in Fenway, Needham’s The Tapples competitively performed against regional music acts on Friday.

“I don’t know what you guys were doing in elementary school, but it certainly wasn’t forming a band [and] recording 21 songs,” emcee Lindsay Van Kauwenberg said, to cheers from the crowd.

The four Needham High School students played to an enthusiastic audience at the first round of Boston’s Last Band Standing, the winner of which will receive a prize package and chance to bring their musical talents to the New England Music Awards for an encore performance.

The Tapples opened with their 2022 single “Back to Me,” followed by the slower “Ghosted,” a track that will appear on their upcoming sophomore album. Lead vocalist and guitarist Riley Zakarian, 18, introduced the band and their third, bluesy song “14 Days,” commenting that it’s about an ex-girlfriend. That drew some chatter from the crowd.

NHS senior Riley Zakarian, 18, plays guitar during The Tapples’ performance in Boston’s Last Band Standing competition March 15, 2024. (Photo by Audrey Anderson)

“I can’t share the name. That’s too much. It’s a high school relationship, you gotta get that in perspective,” the NHS senior said on stage.

Riley Zakarian later launched into the recognizable “funky” guitar riff in “Neon” by John Mayer, which closed out their set. Each band member got their own solo before Riley Zakarian sang the final chorus.

Liam King, 17, played the drums, Zakarian’s brother Avery, 15, played bass and Ashton Kim, 16, was on the keys.

While The Tapples weren’t the big winners of the night — that honor ultimately went to pop-funk band The Far Out — the group still won over judges and attendees alike.

A panel of judges scored each band’s performance on their vocals, stage presence, musicianship, crowd reaction, songwriting and more, according to the contest website.

The Tapples, clearly, had the audience portion covered — dozens of Needhamites and family friends donned Tapples buttons, recorded each song and sang along. A “Needham” chant erupted right before the band began to play.

One woman in the front row wore a “Back to Me” t-shirt, which Riley Zakarian spotted during the show.

An audience member records The Tapples performing at Rockwood Music Hall in the first round of Boston’s Last Band Standing competition March 15, 2024. (Cameron Morsberger)

“It’s a great song. I love the shirt,” Riley Zakarian said, pointing to the attendee. “That’s the song right there, that’s the song!”

Working alongside the Zakarians’ dad, Dana Zakarian, Clara Nascimento has followed the band’s progression over the last few years, listening to each new song that’s released. She’s consistently impressed with their sound and improvement, adding that the Needham contingent of the crowd was a highlight.

“I think it shows that they have a little community that will grow and grow and grow as they get bigger, obviously, because they’re talented,” Nascimento said.

“They should get signed and be famous immediately,” fellow co-worker and attendee Lorena Vogel said.

The band received praise from the judges for their song flow, “incredible” musicianship, group chemistry and crowd engagement. Chris Langathianos, a singer and songwriter on the panel, told The Tapples they had “the cleanest sound of the night.”

Four Needham High School students compose The Tapples. From left, Avery Zakarian, 15, Ashton Kim, 16, Riley Zakarian, 18, and Liam King, 17. (Courtesy Myrna Zakarian)

“I think you guys should be really proud of yourselves,” Langathianos said, “not just because you’re young but because you’re really [expletive] good musicians. Like, really good.”

By Jennifer Hollfelder’s account, Riley and Avery Zakarian are “prodigies when it comes to music.” The former Needham resident previously worked with the brothers on the piano and enjoyed seeing them take the stage in Boston.

“Seeing them play in the band, it comes so naturally to them,” Hollfelder said after the set. “I love watching them perform.”

Though The Tapples didn’t advance to finals, they could still be in the running. Competition wildcards are expected to be announced after the last preliminary round on May 4.

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