by Caleigh horan
From my large, round eyes to my extremely small nostrils, I have inherited many subtleties from my dad. One trait that was passed down from my dad to me that is quite far from a subtlety, however, is my love for music. From an early age, my dad incited a passion within me that has carried me through some of the best and most difficult parts of my life and forged a bond between us that is unlike any other.
One of the earliest instances of music that I can remember comes with the Beatles’ “1” CD as I sat buckled into a car seat on the long drive to my Nana's short-lived double-wide trailer. Back in the day, my dad had a subscription that would send him various new CDs throughout the month, and we always got the first sampling of his collection. Some of the fruits of this subscription included The Killer’s “Hot Fuss” and Gorillaz’s “Demon Days,” which would become staples in my early rock education. Speaking of said CD collection, my dad has thousands of CDs in his possession that are meticulously organized and cataloged on sheets of notebook paper, a true testament to his craft.
Starting at the age of six, Saturday mornings were spent at piano lessons, which guaranteed me a delicious breakfast sandwich from Burger King compliments of my dad. Another treat was found in the School of Rock soundtrack that was almost always playing on our trips to and from lessons. This soundtrack was the inception of my love for classic rock and made attending early morning lessons with my crusty old piano teacher much more bearable. Thankfully, I eventually switched to a piano teacher who was much sprier, but my dad has never stopped supporting my endeavors in piano. One of my favorite nighttime activities growing up was practicing piano as my dad washed the dishes after dinner. It was always a goal of mine to be able to play one of his favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, “Thunder Road,” and right before I left for college, I was finally able to accomplish that goal. It is so much more rewarding to play music for an audience that you know genuinely appreciates it, and I have always had that support in my dad.
This support does not end in my pursuit of a musical instrument, however. If I could encapsulate my dad’s support into a single experience, it would be him driving me all over God’s creation for the first fifteen years of my life. Whether the trip was to a friend’s house or a volleyball tournament or even a lengthy trip up to Six Flags, I could always count on my dad to get me where I needed to be. This entailed plenty of time listening to the radio, from Acoustic Sunrise on XM to Lin Brehmer on XRT. I soon transitioned from passenger to driver on these quiet morning destinations, as I learned to drive the old, faithful Honda CR-V. These driving sessions were a point of consistency in a time of my life where not much seemed certain, and they were always accompanied by quality tunes alongside my dad.
If I could describe my music taste in only one word, I would choose “expansive,” and my dad has everything to do with that. When I got my first iPod (a 512-megabyte iPod shuffle) around age 8, my dad sat me down one afternoon with his aforementioned CD collection and proceeded to pick out the cream of the crop, providing me with what I can only describe as an essential education of classic rock to load up onto my iPod. This was only the beginning of my education, as my birthday and Christmas presents became anything and everything music-related: a vintage Queen t-shirt and endless boxed DVD sets of music videos among the gems. I can now confidently say that I know more about obscure bands from thirty years before I was born than just about anyone my age. My dad laid the foundation for my wide range of musical knowledge and appreciation.
If you thought that this musical education stopped with music from before I was born, you are sorely mistaken. My dad is one of the original hipsters (he proudly notes that he caught onto The Police before any of his friends did). Some of my favorite indie and alternative bands were not of my own findings but through a simple suggestion from my dad. Mumford and Sons, my gateway to the alternative world, was one of our first tip-of-the-iceberg discoveries, and we watched excitedly as the band we once referred to as the “Irish banjo band” rocketed into the mainstream. An archive of our text messages from the past seven or eight years would reveal a wealth of music discovery, both on up-and-coming bands and acoustics and covers that would blow your mind. He is the first person with which I share any and all musical treasures.
It would not be a well-rounded education if he did not expose me to the one of the most important facets of music, the unexplainable rush of live music. My first concert was a 14th birthday present from my dad, a trip to see the Beatles tribute band American English, coupled with a meal at an amazing Italian restaurant. This was only the beginning of what I hope is a life-long affair with live music. I attended my first large-scale concert at 16. Mumford and Sons rolled into a show at the Chicago Theatre on my first night of school, and even though the tickets were exorbitant I’m sure, my dad still got us a pair, with the excuse that “Sometimes you just gotta say fuck it”. He continued the concert tradition by taking me up to a small club in Milwaukee to see Imagine Dragons the next year, right as they were on the cusp of fame. Since that time, I have attended countless concerts and festivals across the country and seen some of the greatest of all time, but the concerts with my dad will always be beyond special in my memory.
All of this music obsession has manifested itself into a robust career in college radio in the past three years of my life, and my dad has been one of my most ardent supporters throughout it all. Not only does he provide me with many of the great songs and bits of trivia that I share, he even came up with the name for my show. After nearly every show, which he stays up past his 9 o’clock bed time for, he texts me encouraging words or thoughts on the songs I played. It has made me endlessly happy to continue to share music with him even though we are no longer under the same roof.
My dad is my unsung hero for so many reasons. He has taught me the value behind appreciating every part of an experience, like a good song from start to finish. Similar to a deep-cut from your favorite artist or a hidden gem from a new band, he is as authentic and genuine as it gets. He does everything for everyone, without asking a thing in return. And I hope that one day I can be half the person he is. Until then, I’ll keep finding good music to share with him.
by brendan eckert
If you ever find yourself wondering what you should put on to get relaxed before bed or at the start of a long, pleasant weekend, please consider playing the Cactus Blossoms. As part of Twangfest 2018, Off Broadway decided to host the group from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, better known as the Cactus Blossoms. The band consists of brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey who perform on guitar and vocal harmonies with a rhythm section including electric bass, drums, and another lead guitar flush with reverb.
The night started off with a bang as the Blossoms played “Clown Collector,” perhaps their most upbeat song off of their debut album You’re Dreaming released in 2016. From there they played a few new songs from a record that had been delayed in coming out due to recently-severed ties with their record label. They continued performing more from their debut with what they called their “own brand of uptempo music” with slower songs such as “You’re Dreaming” and “Stoplight Kisses.” As the lights were low and the clock said eleven, I occasionally found myself pleasantly relaxed by the crisp and consistent vocal harmonies and the sometimes thundering reverb of the lead guitar. Never had I ever been so awake and excited, yet so ready to sleep at the same time.
Following the slower tunes, the pace picked back up with new songs “Gotta Lotta Love to Give” and “Downtown” which lead into the last quarter of the set. Someone shouted out “Mississippi!” in the crowd to which Torrey wryly replied “Great river.” This was a request for my favorite song which they then played to my delight. The Cactus Blossoms had gained a fair amount of national exposure with this song when it was featured in last year’s Twin Peaks revival and this performance did not disappoint.
The last few songs were mostly unreleased uptempo numbers that included a mildly technophobic “Please Don’t Call Me Crazy,” a piece poking fun at growing dependence on the “computers in our pockets,” as Torrey put it. Along with the uptempo songs was a cover of a Charlie Rich song whose title can’t be remembered, but whose sound was darn good. After a very brief (forty-five second) absence, the Blossoms came out to play their typical goodbye encore consisting of fan favorites “Powder Blue” and “Goodbye.”
Overall, the Cactus Blossoms killed it, making the two hour wait well worth it. The band mixed uptempo stompers with slow ballads and meditations on love and loss as well as life in the upper Midwest. The highlight of course was “Mississippi” which showcased their ever-present and always insane harmonies and stylish yet understated guitar playing. I’ve heard people compare the Cactus Blossoms to the Everly Brothers and those people are genuinely correct. If you ever find the Cactus Blossoms coming to your city and want to have a relaxing, fun night, then you need to see them live and in person because you’ll be in for a real treat.
This review is, luckily, more in-depth in part because I was able to snag a setlist and match song names to what I had heard.
By annie bryan
No matter the field, making intentional decisions to genuinely challenge yourself to learn is scary, tiring, and confusing. Education is often exhausting. Fitting the grade takes up the least emotional energy to fit when you don’t put your heart into it. It’s common for the felt and experienced pressure to attain a degree to drown out the validity of learning in every other way. How can we truly learn if we don’t find new things, push ourselves outside of the exhaustive bubble of expectation, and test and expand our brains? Here is a challenge to learn.
Smaller concerts are intimidating. Jumping into the experience of seeing live music is intimidating. Putting yourself out there, going to a new space, and interacting with strangers in raw moments of art are intimidating. Embracing “FIDLAR” in a whimsical and challenging last-minute decision in late February 2018, I fell upon a concert in which Little Cowboy opened. In a slew of strange moments, I found kind and familiar sounds in their music. As bewilderment and thoughtfulness entrapped the audience, I knew that these four dudes held something special. I had stumbled upon a classroom.
With the drums of Josh Rios, lead guitar of Mike Grantham, bass by Ian Vaughan, and vocals/guitar of Collin Mueller, a dream-scape is provided. With phasers on full-blast for restorative Americana, their tracks douse listeners with an ebb and flow of contemplative energy. Lyrics become smooth stones underfoot, trustworthy. Small mistakes are only visible with raised eyebrows between band members. The rest is dialed high for self-reflection in locations you may only kind of be in. Go forth and dissociate.
The best classes are the ones you attend out of desire, and not because of a punishment-based curriculum. With or without culturally-significant affirmation of knowing about the translation of waves into sensory adaptation, we all understand that some music puts us in a space to think more about what we ingest. If education orbits relatability and comparison in the traditional classroom, maybe it exists in a different and equally as valid way in music consumption. As proof to the validity of informal music educations, Little Cowboy provides a space to help the ears around them learn to take apart combined sounds. Without surprise, St. Louis keeps coming back.
Months after my first time hearing Little Cowboy, I found their Socratic Method in the Sinkhole on a Thursday night in May. After opening with their premiere single “Indifference” and fan-favorite “Backbone,” lead singer Collin Mueller thanked the crowd for its participation and introduced their new song, aptly titled “Something New.” Jumping into a dream-like saga of sound, I found references to the works of Beach House, Real Estate, and Mk.Gee in the new track. Through the lyrics, themes of a surprising growth over time are documented. The strangeness of livelihood and observation. How we interpret how the universe pays homage.
Elated in her experienced recognition, my beaming friend suggests that their sound runs akin to Alt-J. Interpretations of the same feeling were validated by those around us with phrases including “this is so good,” “I love their sound,” and “oh my god!” As four friendly dudes hit the interpreted stage and blew everyone away with their vibe, St. Louis grew a little bit together.
With semi-active listening, each person in the small venue found something friendly from their past in Little Cowboy’s future. In these moments, the crowd acquired something brilliant on how music works. Beyond the nearly therapeutic music itself, we found relatability with the music and a surprising comfort in knowing that those around us felt the same way. With this band, St. Louis claims an education in how sounds interact with each other and with the rest of the sensory experience of performed music.
Four sweaty dudes in a South City bar brought a crowd to autonomously, symbiotically clap in grounded jubilance. As eyes roll back in heads, a boogie erupted in a community-infused redirection on learning music and didn’t slow down for the rest of the show.
I think community enthused on combined self-education may be the nugget that defines Little Cowboy. I haven’t seen a single unhappy soul at any of their shows. Instead, I find a reinterpretation of enamor with the band in the intentional or coincidental crowd of fans.
Maybe learning music doesn’t have to be through study. We can use the relatability of music, and it’s sounds, to change the way in which we interact with music and with each other. We don’t have to learn music alone. Maybe learning music can be done through experiencing interpretations of the same thing with a gaggle of friendly strangers. Sometimes it takes one track, one moment, or one show to teach us something. Alongside shared moments to bounce ideas and experiences off of each other in a way that isn’t synonymous with comparison or competition, but growth.
If you’re looking to catch an evening of unadulterated fellowship, ethereal sounds, and lens-expanding music education, go to a Little Cowboy show. Seek out indirect education- it’s something new.
By Mary Wilton
A few months ago, I saw a question online that asked, “If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 10 musical albums would you want to have with you?” This is a question I’ve pondered for quite a darn while. NATURALLY, my initial thought was just to bring 9 Jimmy Buffett albums and PERHAPS a Beach Boys Greatest Hits to have on in the background as I’m drinking from a coconut and chatting with the local parrots. Later, I realized that I would probably get a bit tired of only listening to songs involving cheeseburgers and/or margaritas… Let’s dive into the new and improved list:
Nick Drake- Bryter Layter
Nick Drake is a hidden gem who died too young. From start to finish, this is one of THE most underrated and beautiful albums I have ever heard in my 19 years of life.
Favorite off the album- Northern Sky
Paul Simon- Graceland
The instruments. Can’t go wrong. When I need a little pep in my step, I turn to this worldbeat album. Plus, there is an uncanny similarity between Crazy Love, Vol II and White Sky by Vampire Weekend! The proof is in the video below.
Favorite off the album- Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
Dave Matthews Band- Crash
Huge surprise! The classic that never gets old and takes me back to high school. Believe it or not, Dave has way better songs than that one called ohhhh what is it…. Crash??
Favorite off the album- Strong tie between Say Goodbye, Proudest Monkey, and Lie in Our Graves
Volcano Choir- Repave
Thank you Justin Vernon AKA the man who makes no musical mistakes. Kanye West has called him his “favorite living artist.” Also an absolute pristine album to study to!
Favorite off the album- Acetate
Rostam- Half Light
Rostam is a former member of Vampire Weekend who helped write and produced all three of their existing albums. Ever heard Water by Ra Ra Riot? He produced that one (and yeah that’s also him singing.) He has produced a handful of great songs such as Friends by Francis and the Lights and maaaany more. His mystical solo album is my favorite album from 2017 mostly because of the emphasis on string instruments. If you’re a Vampire Weekend fan you’d like this one.
Favorite off the album- Tie between Bike Dream and Wood.
Led Zeppelin- Houses of the Holy
I don’t think I really need to say anything about this one.
Favorite off the album- Over The Hills And Far Away
Whitney- Light Upon the Lake
Put this on and you’ll be happy!
Favorite off the album- Follow
Big Thief- Capacity
Put this on and you’ll be sad (in the best way of course!)
Favorite off the album- Either Mary or Mythological Beauty
Peter Bjorn and John- Writer’s Block
We’ve all heard (or whistled) Young Folks before, but let’s give a lil shoutout to Paris 2004 and Let’s Call It Off.
Favorite off the album- Paris 2004 or Let’s Call It Off
Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues
Honestly what a masterpiece by a fantastic group from Seattle! True work of art! Do yourself a favor and give this one a listen all the way through.
Favorite off the album- Helplessness Blues
There they are! The 10 albums I would want with me if I were stranded on an island. What are yours? Leave a comment!