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Davis, California

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Best local band: Cowboys After Dark

The band feels honored to be recognized by the Davis community and is excited to continue putting on great shows 


By GRETA FOEHR — features@theaggie.org 


Cowboys After Dark, a local seven-person band known for their exciting covers of well-known songs across genres and eras, is the most popular band in Davis, according to 63.2% of surveyed UC Davis students.

Cowboys After Dark stands out in a variety of ways, and to those who have seen them play, it is no surprise that they won this category.

Rosie Mendoza, a third-year English major who plays trumpet in the band, explained that they are different from most bands because they have three melodic instruments: the trumpet, the saxophone and vocals. This means that they will usually only play one of those at a time, creating the opportunity for a lot of solos and captivating musical battles between melodic instruments. 

Bernadette Grace, a third-year biological sciences major and lead singer of the band, explained that, because they have a seven-piece band, everyone gets to specialize and really hone in on their part. In addition to perfecting their sound, they put an intentional effort into creating a positive energy at their shows. 

“I think something special that we have is that we’re performing as seven best friends who hang out all the time,” Grace said. “We’re kind of fearless, if that makes sense. We go up and we just try stuff, and we take crazy solos. There’s no fear because we trust each other so much, and I think it makes for a really fun show.” 

From production value to audience engagement, Cowboys After Dark knows how to put on a show for their listeners. Mason Johnstone, a third-year biological sciences major and the band’s drummer, described the unique energy of their shows. 

“You don’t just come to listen to the music,” Johnstone said. “You come to watch what we do, whether it’s [Mendoza] and Jacob [the saxophone player] running out into the crowd or the audience kickline.” 

These are just some examples of traditions that the band implemented to keep the audience engaged and increase the production value of their performances. While the members of Cowboys after Dark enjoy performing for the audience, the band also enjoys performing for themselves. Mendoza said that her favorite part about being in the band is arranging their covers to fit every member’s talent and skills. 

“It’s fun just to strip down the song and try to figure out how we can make it sound good with the horns and [the rest of our instruments],” Mendoza said.

While Mendoza enjoys the process of picking out songs, Grace described the joy of meeting people who come to the show. 

“People love to just come up to us afterward and talk to us about music and playing live and that sort of stuff,” Grace said. “Meeting those people is super, super awesome.” 

Johnstone highly values getting the chance to play with other talented and passionate musicians. 

“Just being able to play in itself is just an absolute gift, it’s one of my favorite things,” Johnstone said.

The band feels honored to have been voted the best local band and appreciates the support the Davis community provides. The award reaffirms all of the hard work they put into their music and encourages them to keep moving forward with the band. 

“It’s reassuring and also motivating for our upcoming shows because we’re putting a lot of planning into them,” Mendoza said. “So it’s nice to know that there are some people out there that think we’re the best band and will always support us.”

After winning Best Local Band, Johnstone is motivated to continue working hard to impress the Davis community. 

“It makes me want to sit down at [my] practice pad and just practice even more and get even better,” Johnstone said. 

Johnstone and Eric Aguilar, the band’s guitarist, have been playing music together in Davis since they were 12 years old when they met at Rock Band University, making their Best of Davis win extra sweet. 

“I’m very glad that I get to do what I love with awesome people that I love to hang out with and I love to have as my friends,” Johnstone said. “And to have other people enjoy it just is icing on top.”

Grace feels especially thankful for the recognition from the Davis community. 

“It’s so sweet to know that people like [our music] and have fun when they come see us, and that we are playing a part in getting people to come out for live music in Davis and support musicians,” Grace said. “It means so much.” 

Cowboys After Dark knows what it takes to put on a great show, and they will continue to impress Davis with their musical expertise and vibrant energy. For more information about the band and their upcoming live shows, visit @cowboysafterdark on Instagram. 


Written by: Greta Foehr — features@theaggie.org



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