Scene Supporters (and Survivors) Mike and Danny Lyons Celebrate a Decade at New Brookland Tavern

Weathering the Storm
By Kyle Petersen
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 |
Can't Kids' May album release at New Brookland Tavern | photo by Sean Rayford
It doesn’t look like much from the outside. Apart from the massive and stately painted brick façade that announces the club’s name, the exterior of New Brookland Tavern is dominated by cheap plywood painted black to keep the sunlight out. These walls are barren, reflecting an ongoing struggle with the City of West Columbia regarding an ordinance banning posters. The similarly appointed front door hardly stands out, making entry feel more like slipping into a forgotten speakeasy than going to a rock concert.

The interior is, if anything, a little rougher. There’s a beat-up pool table in the center, a lengthy, but unassuming, bar to the right, and, most importantly, a prominent stage and small pit to the left. A mixture of graffiti, band stickers and concert posters haphazardly litter the walls. Dusty Christmas lights are strung sparingly throughout. To fresh eyes, it looks like little more than a typical dive bar.

And yet, no place has been more important to Columbia’s music scene over the last decade. As a continuously running music venue booking shows throughout the week, and with a capacity capped at about 400 people, New Brookland has proven a vital haven for local and regional acts, as well as under-the-radar nationals. During a time that saw many of the Midlands’ other rooms constantly changing hands, the Tavern has remained a reliable music mecca.

“I remember walking into NBT with a press kit and my first album as Guitar Show in 2002, which was recorded in our high school cafeteria,” recalls Daniel Machado, who these days leads the popular local folk-rock band The Restoration. “It smelled like smoke and looked like everything that terrified me at the time. It also felt like walking into the biggest record label in the world.”

Now, Machado says, it feels more like an extension of his house or practice space than a mountain on high. Guitarist Chuck Sligh, who plays with the mercurial crust punk band Burnt Books, echoes this sentiment.

“Once you’ve kind of networked with NBT, you have some leeway or leniency to do your own thing,” he says. “We’ve done dozens of show trades there. It’s always just been the go-to place for the local rock scene in Columbia.”

This Sunday, Burnt Books will return to the Tavern, headlining the third night of the venue’s weekend-long anniversary celebration. For 10 years, New Brookland has carried on in the capable hands of Mike and Danny Lyons, the brothers who took over the beleaguered rock club from its former owners in 2004.

“We really couldn’t [celebrate] with just one show,” explains Mike Lyons, the bar’s booking agent. “It’s been 10 years now, and we kind of do everything. It’s just hard to describe what New Brookland does with only one night.”

The celebration starts on Friday, as locals Can’t Kids and Stagbriar highlight a night of bands that blur the lines between indie rock and folkish pop. Saturday’s lineup, helmed by The Features, sticks with more traditional pop-rock flavors. Sunday’s selections celebrate the club’s deep inroads into Columbia’s metal and punk community.

For the Lyons brothers, balancing these different styles has been a long and precarious pursuit. But, as Mike is quick to point out, they’ve done a lot of things right.

“My brother and I were actually both working here in 2004, when the previous owners were looking to sell,” he recalls. “They’d had the place less than year from the previous tenants, I was only 24, and my brother had just turned 21. But they were nice enough to let us take over their loan. It was a good situation.

Over the years, the leaky ceilings and almost non-existent air conditioning — a hellish summer nuisance that was finally alleviated earlier this year — have left many local music fans concerned about the club’s solvency. But Lyons seems blasé about such financial danger, even in the face of recent renovations that shut them down through much of May and intermittently throughout the spring and summer.

“Anytime you ask me in the middle of the summer if it’s slow and if we’re struggling, I’m gonna say yes,” he explains. “Anytime you ask me around September or November when all of the bands are coming through, I’ll say we’re fine. It’s week-to-week for any venue, but we’ve never really been to the point where we are worried about closing our doors and shutting down or anything.”

But this latest milestone in New Brookland’s reign as the area’s largest rock club will also be its last. With the Charleston-based Music Farm opening up a sister club in the Vista, boasting a capacity that will likely push past 1,000, the Tavern will soon operate in a much different landscape. But despite the fact that the new Farm’s first few months are dotted by bands that often play across the river — Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Atlas Road Crew and Big Gigantic, for instance — Lyons isn’t worried about the new competition.

“We’re a small place, and I respect that,” he says. “We’re not trying to get mainstream, corporate stuff. Those aren’t our headliners. We’re underground. We build bands up to the point where they can get to that next level. And maybe, 15 years down the line, we’ll get them one more time when they’re coming back down.”

At the end of the day, New Brookland’s cramped and crusty vibe is also part of its appeal. With an established reputation and a local scene that continuously produces feisty new bands to hit his stage, Lyons feels secure in his club’s future.

“It’s an intimate room,” he says. “A lot of bands are surprised when they come see it, but by the end of the night, they love it and want to come back. It must mean we’re doing something right.”

New Brookland Tavern’s 10 Year Anniversary (Under Current Ownership)

Friday 29
Tonight’s lineup includes two of Columbia’s most popular indie rock acts. This spring, Can’t Kids released Ennui Go, its second album of Modest Mouse-inspired pop-rock, throttling between quiet and loud dynamics on its way to catharses that are consistently wrenching and quips that are frequently hilarious. Stagbriar, on the other hand, is propelled by the haunting power of siblings Alex and Emily McCollum, their vocals blending together through dark and oblique narratives paired with cerebral folk-rock arrangements. Good Graeff, a barebones indie-pop duo fronted by twin sisters that tours nationally, joins the local standouts, along with Elonzo and Jade Blocker.



Saturday 30
Saturday’s set is even more diverse. Genre-hopping Nashville pop-rockers The Features, who shift between dancy, Spoon-esque grooves and kaleidoscopic rock anthems, join Charleston’s Elim Bolt, which has shifted from the Roy Orbison-inspired sprawl of its first LP to grungy slacker rock. Canopy Culture, Youngster and Lawdan Mazloom fill out the rest of the night. [Elim Bolt has dropped off the bill for Saturday.]



Sunday 31
The weekend’s final show reaches for New Brookland’s primal base, tapping hard-edged locals — muscular post-hardcore favorites Burnt Books, brutal and stormy metalcore outfit Vorov — to close out the celebration. Robot Plant opens.



Each show starts at 7:30 p.m. and costs $7, $10 if you’re under 21. New Brookland Tavern is located at 122 State St. in West Columbia. More info available at newbrooklandtavern.com, or by calling 791-4413.

Columbia SC Club Calendar: Aug 27 - Sept 3

By Free Times
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 |
Dzyne By God
Wednesday 27
live music
Delaney’s: Prettier Than Matt
Main Street Cafe: Open Mic w/ Nikki Lee and Herbie Jeffcoat
new brookland tavern: New Music Night
Red Door Tavern: Acoustic Open Mic w/ Adam Corbett
Utopia: D.B. Bryant & Vince McKinley
karaoke
555 Lounge: T & J’s Karaoke
Art Bar: Linda’s Carraoke
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
CR Station House: Karaoke
Ozzie’s Country Island: Showtime Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke
dance, djs & misc.
British Bulldog Pub: Pub Trivia
Drip (Five points): Poetry Reading
Jillian’s: Trivia
Locals: Trivia
Mellow Mushroom: Trivia
QUAKER STEAK: Bike Night
Wet WILLIE’S: Quizon Trivia
Wild Hare (Vista): QuizTheMasses Trivia

Thursday 28
live music
British Bulldog Pub: Meggan Farrish and Bert Ligon
Foxfield Bar and Grille: Lock Robster & the Unidahmer, Uninhabitable, Fishwives
new brookland tavern: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Bandkamp, Marshall Brown
Pearlz Upstairz: Mark Rapp Psycho Jazz
River Rat: Mustache Brothers
Speakeasy: Tony Lee Group
tin roof: Wes Cook Band
Utopia: Open Mic Night w/ Marv Ward
wild wing cafe (Irmo): Brandon Hooker (acoustic)
karaoke
Applebee’s (Oneil Ct.): Karaoke w/ DJ Regina
Bentley’s Beach House: Karaoke
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
KC’z Tavern: Kay’s Karaoke
Kelly’s: Karaoke w/ DJ Snow
liberty on the lake: Karaoke w/ DJ Snow
ale House lounge: Linda’s Carraoke
Outsaloon: Billy Ray’s Karaoke
Ozzie’s Country Island: Showtime Karaoke
Shooter’s Grill & Pub: Karaoke with Bobby Whittle
South Lake Saloon: S.I.N. and Karaoke with D.J. Shelly O
Tsubaki: Karaoke
dance, djs & misc.
Art Bar: Foundation Danse Macabre
Carolina Ale House (Vista): Trivia w/ Ryan
Carolina Wings (Cayce): Team Trivia
Carolina Wings (Lexington): Quizon Trivia
Corner Pocket: Shag Night
Foxfield BAr & Grill: Drunk Bingo
JILLIAN’S: Shaggin’ in the Shack
Main street Cafe: DJ
PT’s 1109: Thirsty Thursday Drag Show
Social: Dylan Deekay, LUCiD, Guy L once 8/27
TLC Sports Bar & Grill: Trivia
Uncle Fester’s: Quizon Trivia
The Wild Hare (Irmo): Quiz the Masses Trivia
WILD WING (VISTA): USC Pep Rally
The Woody: DJ Chadly D

Friday 29
live music
Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor: Open Bluegrass Jam
British Bulldog Pub: Don Russo
Conundrum Music Hall: Pharaohs in Space, The Juniors, Dr. Roundhouse
Delaney’s: Barefoot n’ Restless
Hemingway’s: Brent Lundy & Company
Jillian’s: Lenny Cooper
Main street Cafe: William & Clyburn
Mile High Club: Full Throttle
new brookland tavern: Can’t Kids, Good Graeff, Stagbriar, Elonzo, Jade Blocker
Pearlz Upstairz: Robert Gardiner Jazz Quartet
River Rat: Donald Merckle
tin roof: Wes Cook Band
Utopia: The J. Michael Barber Band
The Wild Hare: Katera, Jmichael Peeples, Pretty Feet
wild wing cafe (Irmo): Burning Bright
wild wing cafe (The Village): Josh Phillips Band
wild wing cafe (the vista): Brady Smith
karaoke
Blue Fin: Linda’s Carraoke
Karl’s Korner: Karaoke
Liberty on the Lake: Karaoke
Outsaloon: DJ Ruckus Karaoke
Quaker Steak & Lube: Karaoke
S & E Rack & Grill: Billy Ray’s Karaoke
Shooter’s Grill & Pub: Karaoke with Bobby Whittle
South Lake Saloon: Dance Party/Karaoke w/ DJ Ruckus
Tsubaki: Karaoke
Ventures: Karaoke w/ Nancy
dance, djs & misc.
Art Bar: DJ Arambulance
Kelly’s: DJ Guy
Legion Post 215: Disco Night
Liberty Tap Room: DJ
Red Door Tavern: John’s Birthday Comedy Show
TLC Sports Bar & Grill: DJ DDL
Uncle Fester’s: DJ Snow
The Woody: DJ

Saturday 30
live music
Art Bar: Italo & the Passions, The Makeshifts, Infinite, SemiCasual
Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor: Classic Country Music & Dancing w/ Real Country
Conundrum Music Hall: Culture Shock Tour
Henry’s: Back to School Bash
Liberty on the Lake: The Five
new brookland tavern: The Features, Canopy Culture, Youngster, Lawdan Mazloon
Pearlz Upstairz: DM Radio
River Rat: Stillhouse
skyline club: Diamondback
Speakeasy: Robert Gardiner Jazz Quartet
tin roof: Brinley Addington
Township Auditorium: Casting Crowns
Utopia: Mississippi Kites
wild wing cafe (Irmo): Live Acoustic w/ David
wild wing cafe (The Village): High Maintenance
wild wing cafe (The Vista): Brother Trouble
Zorba’s: Michael Smith
karaoke
Chevy’s: Nightowl Karaoke w/ Chris 2nd
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
Karl’s Korner: Karaoke
S & E Rack & Grill: Billy Ray’s Karaok
Shooter’s Grill & Pub: Karaoke
Tipsy Toad Tavern: Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke
Wet Willie’s: Karaoke
dance, djs & misc.
Blue: DJ Riggles
Liberty Tap Room: DJ
Lucky 13: DJ Red, DJ Chadly D
Main Street Cafe: DJ
Publick House: Quizon Trivia
Red Door Tavern: Cosplay Night
Schooner’s: DJ3
Uncle Fester’s: DJ Snow
Wild Wing Café (Irmo): DJ Tom Wise
The Woody: DJ

Sunday 31
live music
All Star Pizza: Ray Piazzola
Art Bar: Workers’ Comp. Festival Vol. 2
British Bulldog Pub: WXRY Unsigned
Conundrum Music Hall: Wooden Wand, Stefanie Bannister
Liberty on the Lake: Lefty at the Washout
New Brookland tavern: Burnt Books, Vorov, Robot Plant
wild wing cafe (Irmo): Evans McGill
karaoke
Legion Post 215: Karaoke
PT’s 1109: Karaoke w/ DJ Snow
Tsubaki: Karaoke
dance, djs & misc.
Kelly’s: Team Trivia
The Pizza Joint: Quizon Trivia
Speakeasy: Mo’ Betta Soul Sundays w/ DJ Preach Jacobs

Monday 1
live music
Kelly’s: Open Mic
dance, djs & misc.
Buckaroos Grill & Bar: DJ Ray Ray
Publick House: Quizon Trivia
Red Door Tavern: Comedy Open Mic
Salty Nut Cafe: Trivia

Tuesday 2
All Star Pizza: Open Mic w/ Ray Piazzola
Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor: Songwriters Open Mic
British Bulldog Pub: The No Name Bluegrass Band
Lucky’s: Open Mic
new brookland tavern: Release the Dog, Marco With Love, Patrick Bates
South Lake Saloon: Open Mic w/ AL-G
karaoke
Bentley’s Beach House: Karaoke
CJ’s: Karaoke w/ DJ Slinky
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke
Uncle Fester’s: Linda’s Carraoke
Wet Willie’s: Karaoke
dance, djs & misc.
Carolina Wings (Red BAnk): Quizon Trivia
Cover 3: Sex Trivia
Flying Saucer: Trivia Bowl
Liberty tap room: DJ
MainStreet cafe: Trivia
Mellow Mushroom (Lexington): Quizon Trivia
Quaker Steak & Lube: Team Trivia3
STATE STReet PUB: Trivia
Wings & Ale (Columbia):Trivia
Yesterdays: Trivia

Wednesday 3
live music
Delaney’s: David A.
Foxfield Bar and Grille: Occult 45, Ramlord, Birth Kontrol
Music Farm: Music Break w/ Death of Paris, Fatt Rat da Czar, Lazy A & the Green Thing, Josh Roberts & the Hinges
new brookland tavern: Gravy, Funk You, Mesa Verde
Utopia: Gwen Powell & Friends
karaoke
555 Lounge: T & J’s Karaoke
Art Bar: Linda’s Carraoke
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
CR Station House: Karaoke
Ozzie’s Country Island: Showtime Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke
dance, djs & misc.
British Bulldog Pub: Pub Trivia
Drip (Five points): Poetry Reading
Jillian’s: Trivia
Locals: Trivia
Mellow Mushroom: Trivia
QUAKER STEAK: Bike Night
Wet WILLIE’S: Quizon Trivia
The Whig: Trivi-YEAH
Wild Hare (Vista): QuizTheMasses Triviahecked\ed

Rebecca Keisler and Christian Trimmier at Carolina Pour House

By Christian Barker
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 |
Name: Rebecca Keisler and Christian Trimmier
Setting: Carolina Pour House (800 Harden St.)

Everyone is telling me that you all were loyal customers of the old Pour House. What is different?

R: Well, they have lost the monkey, which isn’t a bad thing. One of my favorite new things is the shot wheel.

What is a shot wheel?

R: It’s kind of like the Wheel of Fortune, except with shots. You spin it, and whatever shot it lands on is the shot you get. It’s a fun way to take shots and try new things.

That does sound pretty cool; I’ve never seen that before at a bar. I see they have added some beer pong tables, too.

C: The outside has changed a bit, but it is still the Pour House I love.

What was the original appeal that brought you all to Pour House in the first place?

C: Cheap drinks, cold beer, hot girls and good times.

Enough said. What are your other favorite places to go now that Columbia is back to life with the college students?

R: I like to go to Pinch sometimes. I also like Moosehead Saloon because I like country music. Sometimes, I also like to go dancing, and I’ll go to the Vista because I like EDM, but Pour House has DJs, too.

C: Tin Roof is one of my all-time favorite bars. I love that they have live music.

What advice do you have for freshmen moving to Columbia for the first time?

C: If you can do it again, do it the same — quoting Corey Smith.

R: Live life with no regrets. And enjoy every minute because it flies by.

Concerts in Columbia: Aug 28 - Sept 3

Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Donald Merckle, Casting Crowns, Worker’s Comp Labor Day Festival
By Free Times
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 |
Casting Crowns
Thursday 28

Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ — Among the odd facts in the online bio for Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ — penned by singer and primary songwriter Kevn Kinney — is this: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ is the only band to have played with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sonic Youth and Neil Young in the same year. That shouldn’t surprise longtime fans. The group has always obliterated the lines between hard rock, folk, country and punk. The group’s current strategy for releasing music is equally unconventional: It’s touring behind the fourth entry in an ongoing series of short EP releases scattered across the last two years. With Bandkamp and Marshall Brown. — Kevin Oliver [This show has been cancelled.]

New Brookland Tavern: 8 p.m., $15 ($12 advance); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com

Lock Robster & the Unidahmer — Lock Robster & the Unidahmer’s built for lovable dives like Foxfield, sloppy and grimy and humid and sweating booze and perfumed with stale cigarette smoke. The New Orleans trio’s punk is down and dirty and ready to party, not sleazy but slimy, not nihilistic but markedly uninhibited. Asheville’s Uninhabitable offers apocalyptic sludge with a crust bent, while locals Fishwives plays chaotic, noisy, screamy punk. — Patrick Wall

Foxfield Bar & Grille: 7 p.m., donations; 728-0420, facebook.com/foxfieldbar

Friday 29

Donald Merckle — With his Blacksmiths in tow, Donald Merckle breeds energetic acoustic rock in the fertile gap between Irish balladry and American folk, sounding just as strong during energetic ramblers as he does during tender odes. This versatility bodes well for today’s solo performance; Merckle’s emotional range is the kind that can play just as well over stark and determined acoustic strums as it does when backed by the Blacksmiths’ lush bits of banjo, guitar and bass. — Jordan Lawrence

River Rat Brewery: 5:30 p.m., free; 724-5712, riverratbrewery.com

Saturday 30

Casting Crowns — Numbering among today’s more successful contemporary Christian acts, Casting Crowns boast an arena-sized mainstream rock sound that’s employed in service of some powerful worship. Christian music stands or falls on its lyrics, and the words of songs such as “Who Am I,” “Does Anybody Hear Her?” and “All You’ve Ever Wanted” — the latter from their latest album, Thrive — go beyond simple praise to explore the inherent complexities of faith. — Kevin Oliver

Township Auditorium: 7 p.m., $26-$56; 576-2356, thetownship.org

The Makeshifts, Italo & the Passions, Infinite — Local trio The Makeshifts recently added a percussionist to their fold, but the band’s focus on guitar-driven indie rock with plenty of fancy fingerwork should remain unchanged. Italo and the Passions frontman Michael Italo prefers a raucous howl to conventional singing, while the Passions blend classic soul hooks with guitar-rock sleaze — both contributing to the band’s aura of controlled debauchery. Infinite claims a reggae-rock tag and does its best to deliver, but winds up sounding too much like 311 to arouse much excitement. — Michael Spawn

Art Bar: 8 p.m., $5; 929-0198, artbarsc.com

Mississippi Kites — If you haven’t heard, Utopia Food & Spirits, the cozy listening room that once resided on Rosewood Drive, is back in business. Closed for only a few weeks, the venue is now open in a new location on Fort Jackson Boulevard. Tonight presents a nice opportunity to check out the new space as the Mississippi Kites, a mercurial Columbia-based Southern rock band bridging the gap between Giant Sand and CCR, stop in for an intimate performance. — Jordan Lawrence

Utopia Food & Spirits: 8 p.m., free; 782-8522, facebook.com/pages/Utopia-Food-Spirits

Qwintis Sential, Dzyne By God — Among the most shocking events to happen to gospel rap in recent memory was when the subgenre’s most recognizable name, Lecrae, appeared in the 2011 BET Awards lineup. Then there was former cocaine rapper and ex-Clipse member Malice (now No Malice) suddenly switching to holy hip-hop. For a style more known for its vulgarity than its potential for praise, such developments likely left a few listners feeling pretty confused. So maybe you’re still dispirited by the thought of Christian emcees and need a night like this to confront your preconceived biases. Dzyne By God leads this worship medley, disguising dogma with pop rhythms, while Qwintis Sential is more prone to have you worship his wordplay than worry about God. — Eric Tullis

Conundrum Music Hall 8 p.m., $10; 250-1295; conundrum.us

Sunday 31

Worker’s Comp Labor Day Festival — Two things you can count on from Stereofly, the Columbia-based ‘zine and promotions hub dedicated to highlighting unheralded regional talent — ambition and enthusiasm, both erupting from stores that seemingly have no end. Just take a spin through Worker’s Comp. Vol. II, the free digital companion piece to Stereofly’s second annual Labor Day Weekend mini-fest. It includes some artists that won’t be at Art Bar this weekend, but there’s still plenty here to justify your attendance — a woozy new pop-rock number from The Restoration’s Adam Corbett, a swaggering cut from the all-star hip-hop collective NewSC, a somber invocation from the melodically astute alt-rock trio The Fire Tonight. All three play as part of a nine-band bill that also includes the hypnotic hip-hop of We Roll Like Madmen, the burly grime of Grüzer and the playful, funky synth-hop of Grand Prize Winners From Last Year. Free beer from Charleston’s Holy City Brewing until it runs out. — Jordan Lawrence

Art Bar: 5 p.m., $8; 929-0198, artbarsc.com

Wednesday 3

Gravy, Funk You, Mesa Verde — Kicking off this lineup of funky bands is Mesa Verde, which imbues its meaty classic rock melodies with rhythmic bombast and loads of delay and wah-wah. Verde is followed by Gravy, which owns a jazz-infused sound punctuated by sax and melodious keys, with sleepy, squealing leads and soulful vocals. Finishing off the evening is the jam band Funk You. The group layers raspy vocals over effect-soaked riffs with splashy cymbals, popping snares and a backdrop of milky synths and keys. — Dade Driggers

New Brookland Tavern: 7:30 p.m., $5 ($8 under 21); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com

Music Break — Columbia Opportunity Resource presents this networking event for musicians and those in related businesses around town. Given that many working musicians are playing gigs too often to get to see their peers and compare notes, it’s an interesting idea, and a good way to check out the new Music Farm at Tin Roof, which will soon become Columbia’s largest rock club. A Musician’s Workshop kicks things off, then the networking is thrown wide open as Death of Paris, Fat Rat Da Czar and Lazy A & the Green Thing provide the soundtrack. — Kevin Oliver

Music Farm: 5 p.m., $20 (free for musicians and COR members); ourcor.org

Occult 45 — Grindcore is not for the faint of heart. Case in point: Philadelphia’s Occult 45. The cleverly named group rips through the heavy subgenre as it was originally intended, blitzing through caustic riffs and agitated rhythms with speed and precision. But unlike some of its peers, Occult 45 never lets its technicality get in the way of its menace; the tones groan and growl even as they hurtle along full-force. With Ramlord and Birth Kontrol.
— Jordan Lawrence

Foxfield Bar and Grille: 7 p.m., $5; 728-0420, facebook.com/foxfieldbar

For Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth, Perpetual Motion Is the Only Constant

Sunday at Conundrum Music Hall
By Corbie Hill
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 |
Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth | photo courtesy of Fire Records
James Jackson Toth doesn’t hold still for long. As the uncommonly prolific songwriter behind Wooden Wand, he has released a staggering amount of material — all since the turn of the millennium.

The new album Farmer’s Corner matches pastoral folk-rock with ’70s songwriter narratives, like Tim Buckley wandering the back roads, while the 2013 LP Wooden Wand & the World War IV’s sardonic acid-psych owes as much to his beloved Neil Young as it does to riff-heavy stoner-rock. 2006’s Second Attention is a collection of ramshackle Dylan-isms, while 2005’s Harem of the Sundrum & the Witness Figg presents decentralized folk purposefully damaged by digital effects. And these are but a few of Wooden Wand’s myriad transformations.



It makes sense, then, that he’d be running errands around his current home of Lexington, Kentucky, when he picks up the phone for an interview. If there’s a common thread here, it’s that Toth is constantly on the move.

“I can live anywhere as long as I can continue to travel as much as I do,” he says. The current town’s temporary, after all, while wife Leah finishes a doctoral program at the University of Kentucky. Toth’s not wild about Lexington, he admits. The traffic sucks. The music scene is very small. And the overall college-town atmosphere doesn’t appeal to him.

“It doesn’t have the advantages of a cool city, but it doesn’t have the advantages of Nowheresville, Montana,” he says.

What: Wooden Wand
Where: Conundrum Music Hall, 626 Meeting St.
When: Sunday, Aug. 31, 8:30 p.m.
With: Stefanie Bannister
Price: $8
More Info: 250-1295,conundrum.us
Still, Toth’s list of places he’d rather live sounds less like a plan for settling down and more like a travel itinerary. He currently has “West Coast fever,” though he had a great time living in Tennessee. He wants to live in a metropolis again, though he simultaneously would like to end up in the middle of nowhere. “The grass is always greener, I guess,” he shrugs.

If he has wanderlust, he’s not necessarily restless. Rather, he’s comfortable in motion. Toth grew up in Staten Island, steeped in heavy metal and hip-hop. He didn’t want to stay, despite his love for the city.

“As soon as I realized there were places with tumbleweeds and s#!t, I couldn’t wait to leave,” he recalls.

Today, he’s still torn between the convenience and stimulus of a big city and the calm of smaller towns. As a touring musician, he doesn’t have to choose; he travels often to get a dose of both. His creative output, too, follows a similar thread. It would be senseless, he thinks, to choose just one musical style — so he doesn’t.

“I’m either cursed or blessed with this sort of festering muse that wakes me up at night or forces me to write things on receipts and text drafts to myself on my phone while I’m driving,” Toth says. What’s hard is finding the time to organize these first lines and snippets into coherent songs. “Until the faucet stops, I guess I’ll keep writing songs.”

“From the outside, looking in, it just seems like he’s a vessel for this thing,” Cory Rayborn says from his office in High Point, North Carolina. Rayborn’s label, Three Lobed Records, has been releasing Wooden Wand material since 2005 — thus far, five records with a sixth on the way in 2015. “He’s an insanely prolific writer,” Rayborn continues. “He could easily crank out an album a week, probably — and none of it’s throwaway.”

Rayborn is baffled, too, by his friend’s standards. What Toth considers sub-par material, others wish they could write, he says. In a perfect world, Rayborn feels, Toth would be on living on Nashville’s outskirts, writing songs for himself — and for others — all day, every day.

“Music, for better or worse, is still the thing that makes me really happy,” Toth concludes.

Let us know what you think: Email music@free-times.com.

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