The 11-year-old beamed at his heavy-metal rocker dad, Tony Conklin, associate director of research for the Americas at Deutsche Bank and happy member of Riffhanger, who had just performed in a battle of the bands.
Wall Street Rocks organizes concerts to benefit charities helping veterans, including Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Finally Home. Audience members are asked to vote on their favorite band by text. Results from last night will be announced after the second round in September, providing the line-up for the final round in December.
Last night at the Cutting Room, Riffhanger competed against three other groups.
The AlgoRhythmics, formed by employees in Credit Suisse Group AG’s information-technology department, offered covers of Oasis, David Bowie, the Gin Blossoms and U2. The lead singer and drummer wore neon headbands, the keyboardist a shirt and silver tie he’d changed into after work.
Unrestricted Entity, a Deloitte Consulting LLP band, wore matching T-shirts. They had an awesome horn section and lots of vocal harmonizing on covers of Billy Joel and Gotye.
The Mneumonics, or MNIX, brought together four employees of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. Their 30-minute set featured classic rock like Tom Petty as well as Kings of Leon, Bryan Adams and Foo Fighters.
Riffhanger plays originals in the genre of Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. To prep for the gig, Conklin and bandmates -- some of whom he’s played with for 20 years -- practiced underneath a working pickle factory in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. The Montclair, New Jersey, father of two also wrote new songs for an all-original set.
And he let his hair grow, below the ear. In college it fell past his shoulders.
“I’m fortunate to work for a business that is tolerant of my counterculture aura,” said Conklin, 44.
On stage, with his blue button-down open just enough to expose his chest, Conklin leaned back and lit into the guitar, then sang about mutually assured destruction in a deep, gravelly cry nothing like his speaking voice.
“Are we loud enough for you? Should we go to 11?” Conklin asked the crowd.
There were no heavy-metal songs about the Dow. “I’ve never written a song about a stock,” Conklin said, “but working in a research department that covers stocks in 70 different industries is useful. You have to work with people to make it a good product. Being in a band is like that.”
Music gave him his motto. “My high-school yearbook quote was from AC/DC,” Conklin said. “‘It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ’n roll.’ It’s the same thing in business, you’ve got to pay your dues, there’s no easy shot, that’s what I tell the people I manage.”
Conklin views Wall Street Rocks as a way to play larger venues. Supporting veterans has a powerful pull too.
Conklin has four brothers-in-law who served in the military and a nephew in the Marines.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)