Community Talk: Jam Room Music Festival 2015 Announcement, Cory Branan Edition

11732033_708312529272830_1273592294353685023_o We here at Jasper are stoked for the 2015 Jam Room Music Festival, a free all-day concert that is celebrating its fourth year on Main Street this year. But rather than us telling you how awesome some of the bookings are, we thought we'd ask some community figures about their personal experiences with some of the bands booked. We started by asking American Gun's Todd Mathis about his history with Nashville singer/songwriter Cory Branan, one of the most celebrated under-the-radar Americana acts around.



The first time I heard the name Cory Branan was in the song “Tears Don’t Matter Much” by Lucero.  Ben Nichols sings:

“Cory Branan’s got an evil streak

And way with words, that will bring you to your knees

He can play the wildest shows

And he can sing so sweet”

Not long after, while browsing around Acme Comics, Randy Dunn suggested I buy The Hell You Say, Branan’s debut album from 2002.  I listened, thought it had some good songs, “Ms. Ferguson” and “Skateland South” being my favorites, but was overall unimpressed.  I thought Lucero was much better and the production on the album was scattered.  Sometime later in 2005 (the exact dates from those days blur) I saw where Cory’s manager, Brian, was looking to fill some tour dates and I decided to try and help out.  The Whig had just opened so I asked Phil Blair if I could book Cory to play there.  Phil agreed and I got in touch with Brian and we booked the date.  I lugged my band’s PA equipment down the stairs to the Whig, set it up and had it ready.  I sent out emails to Uncle Gram (at WUSC) and rounded up as many of my friends as I could and Cory played for the first time in Columbia.

After seeing that show I realized why Ben Nichols had thought enough of Cory to put him in a song.  Cory was great live, and it was just him and a guitar. Charismatic, spastic, tender, and thoughtful were a few of the descriptions that ran through my mind.  His debut album had not done him justice. (And actually, none since have done justice to the live show.)  This guy was madly talented and anyone that saw him had to crack a smile at some of his stories and tunes. There were maybe 20 people in the audience that night, but I think everyone had a good time.  Cory drank some whiskey and followed me back to my house where I left him sleeping the next morning.  I went to work and was surprised to get a call from Brian (the manager) that afternoon asking if I had Cory’s phone.  I found it on the back of the toilet and Fed Exed it to Cory’s next show.

About a year or so later (again, timeframes here blur) I booked Cory again in Columbia, this time being at New Brookland Tavern.  I got Rob Lindsey to open, and I think I played a few songs too, and we had a better crowd.  Things were going pretty good that night until soundman Benji had a heart attack and died in the club.  Cory’s set was cut short and we all moved to the Red Tub where most sat in disbelief.  It was a pretty sad scene, Benji being such a great, nice dude.  Again, Cory came back to the house, and again, I got a call later in the evening asking about Cory’s phone.  I found it under the guest bed.

After those two shows in Columbia, Branan didn’t need my help booking him anymore.  He moved on to a better booking agency and traveled back through Columbia a few more times where he always played amazing live shows.  I even caught him in Nashville once with a full band and a near-packed house, something he hasn’t quite been able to do here in Columbia.  I’ve suggested Cory to the powers that be for the Jam Room Music Festival since its inception and was thrilled to see him on the bill this year.  I’m sure more than a few folks will come away saying, “Dang, that Cory Branan guy put on a hell of a show.” -Todd Mathis

Here's a link to Todd's new project, Interruptions of the Mind, along with some Cory Branan tunes:

American Gun’s Heartbreak Valentine’s by Joanna Savold

Am Gun 2Am Gun  A ‘heart-filled’ performance is coming to the Art Bar this Saturday night: American Gun’s annual “A Heartbreak Valentine’s” show. The Columbia-based band has been hosting this event for the past seven years. It’s a cocktail of live music and specialty drinks, and the perfect scene to celebrate Valentine’s Day for singles, couples, and rock fans alike. Originally, American Gun’s early songs of love and loss fit the February holiday too easily to pass up; now, while the band’s themes have changed over time, they still keep the tradition and draw people from across Columbia to the yearly show.


Previous Heartbreak Valentine’s showcased roller derby girls serving jello shots and even a kissing booth, but the main attraction is always the music. Todd Mathis of American Gun says the band usually introduces its new songs during this performance to kick off the new year: “Out with the old, in with the new.” The unique venue also offers the band a chance to showcase its rock and roll style to a new audience, since the Art Bar event draws both regular fans and new listeners. In addition to their own performance, American Gun always strives to bring in excellent local talent for its openers, and this year will be no different. This Heartbreak Valentine’s show’s lineup includes Prairie Willows, Zach Seibert, and Youth Model, an eclectic all-local set – from ukuleles to pop/rock – that is sure to rock the house. American Gun will, naturally, close for the event.


The night of heartbreak and killer tunes starts around 9:30 this Saturday, February 15th, at Art Bar on ­­­­Park Street. The doors open at 8, and it’s recommended you get there early for the best experience.


Music at the Release Party for Jasper Vol. 002, No. 003

A quick run down of the music for tomorrow night's festivities! 6:45 Prettier Than Matt – An acoustic duo featuring Jeff Pitts, a guitarist for local hard rock band Deleveled, and Jessica Skinner, who sports a sultry voice and a ukelele, Prettier Than Matt describes themselves “as if Bon Jovi and Alison Krauss had a baby,” and they tend to follow through on that promise. Think warm Americana goodness tempered with an unabashed love of pop/rock, with an catalog of covers and increasingly potent originals.

8:15 Todd Mathis – Over the course of four full-lengths in the alt. country outfit American Gun, singer/songwriter and guitarist Todd Mathis has established himself as one of Columbia's finest and most consistent scene members, and that's not counting his work in Betty Sneetch and Boxing Day, two now-defunct local rock bands that also were at the top of their class, or his solo releases. Mathis' steady creative output over the years gives him a huge catalog to draw from, but expect a good dose of tunes from AG's last album, Therapy, and a few from an upcoming solo effort recorded with Whiskey Tango Revue.

9:00 Latenights – Young indie rockers Latenights close out the night with their catchy brand of indie rock, mixing Weezer-ish guitar-pop perfection with edgy, distorted riffs more appropriate for Modest Mouse or Les Savvy Fav. Throw, on top of it all, lush, dreamy harmonies and hooks galore, and you have the band's signature sound. Those of you paying attention might also notice that the group made Jasper's Top 10 Local Releases of 2012 with their debut, self-titled full-length!

-Kyle Petersen