Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Local bands have more opportunities to expand upon their music than larger, established musicians. No record labels means nobody’s holding them back. The wandering between college town bars gives them room to experiment with instruments, lyrics, and the way their music is found and consumed. 

Clay Dixon and the Piccadillies, a Floridian folk band, takes advantage of their tight-knit notoriety to create a compelling narrative freely and without fear. They are storytellers first, musicians second, and both skills are tied together lovingly in their latest EP, “Walking Uphill with Seedy Beady.”

This immersive EP follows the titular Seedy Beady (who’s just the singer with a chipper Scottish accent) as they guide the listener through an intentionally disjointed story. It is a quiet but epic tale presented to the band’s audience as a ‘lost media’ that was discovered in a thrifted jacket, adding a layer of mystery to the EP.

Most musicians would tease an album with the drop of a single here and there. Their intent is transparent: listen to their songs, and eagerly await the upcoming album. The Piccadillies, however, push past that and envelope each song with history. The experience extends beyond the album. 

There are not many other bands who can boast about well-written limericks on their discography, or the intrigue surrounding the story being told from the pocket of a corduroy jacket. The Piccadillies maintain complete creative control with this niche take. Sometimes they sing, sometimes they speak directly to the listener while the instrumental plays in the background. Most times, it’s a bit of both. 

 “Wasp’s Nest Limerick” is a contemplation on limericks, their simple structure, and the possibilities that lie within writing without the ambition to impress but simply to create, all over a plucky banjo. Regarding “Guessing Limerick” as its partner song neatly ties together the as it’s written entirely of limerick stanzas.

The Piccadillies take a type of poetry hardly taken seriously and reshape it into something worthy of song-form. They experiment with lyrics and tone, though mostly maintain the airy tone established in the first track. Each song has the crackle of static over it, aging it and adding to the lyric’s otherworldliness. Despite the unique structure, the singer grounds you, taking you by the hand to guide you through this world.

Not every song is an actual song. “unlisted_track” is so eerie with its electronic buildup it feels out of place among the other songs. However, this is another way the band goes against tradition—they take your expectations and twist them on their head to bring you a piano-backed poem overloaded with lore. 

“Walking Uphill with Seedy Beady” is imbued with passion, not just for music but for storytelling in any form. If they were internationally acclaimed, The Piccadillies would likely be trapped by contracts and expectations, but the reputation of a local band is ever changing. They easily float along the surface of popularity, with a following to appreciate and support their art, but still remaining small enough to have the freedom to make something as immersive as this EP. 

Ricky Montgomery

On April 7th, indie darling Ricky Montgomery released a new single to tease the nearing release of his unnamed sophomore album. While  “Eraser” talks about Montgomery’s experiences with isolation during the height of the pandemic, the sound itself is a turning point for his career as he begins to establish his musical voice outside of his Tik Tok and Vine popularity. 

Originally a small artist who bounced between bands in West St. Louis County, Ricky Montgomery found a bout of success in Vine with funny short videos and used that popularity to bring attention to his solo work. He released his first EP, “Caught on the Moon,” and a few years later, his debut album “Montgomery Ricky.” However, while he had a loyal fanbase waiting for any new projects, it wasn’t until the early days of the pandemic that his music truly got the attention he earned.

Tik Tok, which has become known for taking small artists and picking them off the ground, discovered “Mr. Loverman,” a song from Ricky Montgomery’s first album, and immediately dragged it to the spotlight, bringing a second renaissance in his musical career. It couldn’t be helped that this song and many others from his debut album became associated with many groups in fan culture, and the power of fans is one to be reckoned with, as Ricky Montgomery grew from niche indie singer to borderline mainstream in exponential expediency.

Ever since this, he’s done many things with this newfound fame, including signing a record deal with Warner Bros and releasing a second EP, all while working on his second album, which has yet to be announced but has been relentlessly teased on his social media. 

Following the highly anticipated drop of this second album, Ricky Montgomery has released a single: “Eraser.” This newest title under his belt diverges from his normal sound, leaning less into the rock side of indie rock and more into a mellow, electronic indie vibe that feels more like a daydream than a heart wrenching song to sing to at three am on the highway. 

Even though the sound is new and experimental for someone such as him, Ricky Montgomery’s career has been filled with divergences. He’s incredibly well rounded in musical genres, and while he doesn’t wander too far from indie, his talents allow him to venture off into different sounds while maintaining the core of who he is. 

Even with simpler stanzas making up “Eraser,” Ricky Montgomery keeps the quiet prose of his lyrics that has always resonated with people, even if the inspirations for those lyrics aren’t universal experiences. He balances bite-sized metaphors with that steady pace of the drums that neatly walks the line between somber and uplifting he’s been doing since his debut. 

Now that he has the backing of a record label, this well-crafted single is just a taste of what’s to come, and everyone will be waiting eagerly for his next album’s release. 

On St. Patrick’s Day, the streets were flooded with drinks and joyous laughter as dozens of South Carolinians pub-crawled their way to Five Point’s annual festival. Many folk were excited, as there’s nothing better way to celebrate the green-clad holiday than with a few marathons, some banging music, and plenty of drinks to go around.

Though the holiday is a celebration of Ireland’s rich heritage (and let’s be honest, an excuse to party in the daytime) downtown Columbia’s heart eagerly laps up any chance it gets to celebrate all those who make the community what it is, Irish or not.

The day began early with a 10k marathon, slowing down to a 5k, then a mile family fun run. Clear skies, though a slight chill. Just the perfect weather for a run, then a refreshing glass of water at the finish line. The Musical Mile, a fun moniker for our St. Paddy’s Parade, cut through the city, a trail of cheery faces following as Fort Jackson’s Army Band led the battlefront with their musical expertise. 

This year’s music event thrummed with unabashed talent, starting strong with headliner Hippo Campus, an indie-rock powerhouse who’s recently begun dipping their toes into the country genre. Though they were a crowd favorite, that’s not to discredit Nashville native’s Moon Taxi, country singer Nate Smith, and Atlanta’s very own Drivin N Cryin. Each headliner brought a strength and energy to the all-day festivities that left everyone dizzy with glee and post-concert jitters. 

The supporting bands, both from far away lands (Florida) and those born and raised, follow the openers with style that rocked the earth in a way only indie artists can do. A few honorable mentions, as they were all too spectacular to fit into one list: the funky Flipturn, soulful The Brook & The Bluff, the synth-driven Doom Flamingo, and Columbia’s very own Rex Darling.

It’s not a true festival without turkey legs and funnel cakes, which flowed through the streets as sweetly and swiftly as the pints. Food vendors offered their delicacies at every corner of the city, the barbeque sweet and the people even sweeter. Not only was there food and music to enjoy, but wall climbing and karaoke in case you wanted to add a solo of yours to the setlist.

Five Points 41st year of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day was memorable, rich in activity and in memory-making, and there is nowhere to go next year but up, up, up. 

Love is in the air this Valentine’s day, and with love comes the need to express it. What better way to tell someone you like them than with a boombox, standing under their window while blasting Taylor Swift? If you’re in a romantic mood or just want some sweet tunes to sing along to while indulging in some self love, here’s five love songs to celebrate with. 

Lovesong is just that—a love song. This Cure classic is perfect for any relationship in any stage, new or old, flimsy or solid. With yearning synth and guitar riffs that pluck right at your heartstrings, this song tells a timeless tale of a love that comforts and makes you whole. It’s reminiscent of a blossoming romance, where the glow of a honeymoon phase is still bright and effervescent, while also keeping that soft pulse of an older love between two people who’ve lived their best years together and are prepared to live the rest of them in the same way. 

Like or Like Like by Miniature Tigers is a preppy, hyper song about shy, young love. It’s easy to sing along to, easier to jam out to. The drums are quick and light, mimicking the rapid heartbeat of a nervous teen, trying to confess to their crush before falling into a casual, softer beat in the chorus that shows the confidence of the singer as they try to figure out if the person they like returns those feelings. The guitar is funky, warbled and experimental in some parts, other times simple enough to blend easily with the drums. 

Glass Animals took the music charts by storm in the past few years. Their hit Heat Waves no doubt crossed your radio waves at one point or another, and for good reason. Though a bit more melancholic, this song heavily leans into the electronic aspect of electronic rock, perfectly embodying the feeling of late summer nights, when you’re lost in the feelings you try to avoid. It has warm lyrics, a vividly powerful synth that carries the song, hypnotic beat drop at the end of the bridge that will make you ascend with every time you hit repeat. 

If you’re a fan of modern retellings in song form, Love Story by Taylor Swift is just the song for you. Whether you prefer Taylor’s Version or the original, the sweet thread of acoustic guitar against the soft chimes will immediately sweep you off your feet. It tells a happier story of Romeo and Juliet, one where at the end, they end up happily together. Taylor’s Version also includes uplifting violins in the background that elevates this song from a country bop to a romantic ballad. A great ending to a great story, retold in a beautiful way.

Another classic you can’t go wrong with, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Frankie Valli is the epitome of a love song. Sultry vocals, smooth horns, and an explosive romantic chorus with an iconic rhythm that’ll worm its way into your mind for years to come. This song carries an air of nostalgia few songs from this same era of music can carry, even decades after its release. It’s a beautiful tribute to love, and infectious in the way it makes you want to grab the hands of the person you love and dance into the night. 

Anyone who’s worked retail or shopped in any mall during the holiday season has heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on repeat. It’s a good song that perfectly embodies the festive energy that the end of the year brings for the first twenty plays. After that, though, it just becomes a drag to listen to. So, if you’re less into pop and want something more mellow to jam out to as Christmas approaches, this list is the one for you.

This first one is actually a Slade cover of their iconic song. Merry Christmas Everybody by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (better known as IDKhow) has the typical punchy and chipper piano found in every well known Christmas song along with a violin and trumpet. The chorus is sung by a group, with clapping, cheers, and the subtle hi-hat tapping that sounds like the shake of reindeer bells.

A departure from his usual emo-rock genre, Gerard Way delivers Dasher with dreamy languor, showcasing the soft side of his vocals. Featuring Lydia Night, this jazzy song is a wanton ballad about escaping reality and leaving a miserable life to run away with a lover. If you believe Gerard Way, then that lover is, in fact, Dasher the reindeer. It doesn’t sound like the typical Christmas song, but it surely has the themes. 

It wouldn’t be an indie song list without some Twenty One Pilots in the mix. Christmas Saves The Year has it all: jingling bells, the distinct ambient sound of driving through snow, and synthy holiday cheer. And, of course, that distinct singing from frontman Tyler Joseph that is equal parts mournful and positive. The slightly muffled drums kick in halfway through, granting this song an added boost of nostalgia, alongside its reminiscing lyrics.

Figure 8 by Peach Pit is an honorary holiday song. While the themes have nothing to do with Christmas, it carries the vibes in its beautiful guitar riffs and soft use of the hi-hat and snare that doesn’t distract from the dreamy singing. It’s reminiscent of early 2000’s songs that exude the somberness that accompanies the holidays, like Chasing Cars or Somewhere Only We Know. And the lyrics speak about ice skating which, if you squint, could be a Christmas theme.

Much like with Figure 8, This December by Ricky Montgomery has less to do with Christmas cheer and more so carries the vibes of the season. He sings about loneliness that comes with the holidays but also a determination to grow and become happier as the years go on, even if December brings back bitter memories. It’s one of the more optimistic songs on this list, and for a good reason. 

As Halloween approaches, pumpkin spice everything returns to stores and twelve-foot skeletons take center stage on decorated lawns. There’s no better way to establish the mood of the time than with a playlist that fits your scary vibes. Most people have heard The Monster Mash, I Put A Spell On You, and Thriller, all these classic but overplayed songs associated with Halloween, but there’s so many other overlooked songs out there that belong on your curated soundtrack to get you through the spooky season. 

Anybody by Dom Fera starts with ghost-like hums that immediately sets the tone for the song and maintains it throughout. It brings on the feeling of walking through a haunted house, where the spirits cling to the shadows and scurry away from the beam of your flashlight. Fera’s sultry singing blends so well with the punchy piano and trumpets that embodies the Hallow’s Eve vibe easily. And to add to its charm, the album cover is a sheet ghost.

Nearly everyone knows Metallica, especially after Stranger Things reignited its popularity, and although Master of Puppets is great, Enter Sandman deserves its own time under the spotlight. It is the perfect song for any metalheads with a love for all things scary, with addictive guitar riffs, solid vocals that will scratch that itch in your brain, and the titular haunting figure Sandman as the center of the song, adding a haunting feeling, especially during the bridge. 

If you’re looking for a short and explosive love song with supernatural themes, may I introduce you to Baby You’re A Haunted House. Gerard Way is a master at macabre and intense songs, as seen throughout his entire discography, and although this one stands out against most of his other songs from My Chemical Romance, it’s a great chipper song to add to your repertoire for when you’re dancing in costume at a Halloween party. 

all the good girls go to hell starts distant church bells and spine-tingling reverb over Billie Eilish’s sweet and misleading voice, already putting you on edge. Many of Eilish’s songs could be on this list, as they fit the aesthetic of the spooky autumn holiday, but this one in particular evokes that shiver of dread that runs up your arms during a horror movie. It’s the perfect song if you’re trying to embody those awesome final girls who kill the bad guy in the end. 

Although Somebody’s Watching Me came out in 1984, it has been trending on TikTok for some time now, a well-deserved revival for a great song. It embodies all the great things people loved from the eighties, like the funky synth, head-bopping bass lines, and of course, the lyrics sung in that exaggerated manner. This song is a staple of Halloween, and should be on everyone’s playlist, no matter if they’re looking for a harrowing or fun vibe for their parties.

Do you love bikes? Do you like helping those in need? Then we have the perfect place for you to visit, and to help. 

Cola Town Bike Collective (CTBC) is a community bike shop whose mission is “to educate and empower the community by providing a welcoming space to learn about bicycle repair, engage in maintenance practices, and promote safe operation through outreach and advocacy activities.” They help spread their good natured mission throughout Columbia with their bicycle repair network, which provides accessible and free-to-use bike repair stands throughout the Midlands, as well as The Reliable Transportation Initiative.

For every bike they sell, they donate back to the community. Every paid repair equals five free or low cost repairs for someone in need. In a sense, what you give them, they return to the community tenfold. This program ensures that nobody is without a good pair of wheels to help them get to where they need to be. Access to bikes helps those experiencing homeless achieve a more stable living situation than if they were on their feet all day. 

Their mission is a valiant one, and unfortunately, now this shop needs your help. They’re in danger of losing their space, as the building is being sold, which puts all the progress they’ve made to better our community at risk. Recently, Freeway’s talented rock band, the Midnight Monarchs, performed at their #SaveOurShop campaign to raise money and awareness to the shop and the circumstances they’ve found themselves in. Big thanks to Will Brennan of Columbia’s City Council for having us! 

Everybody deserves a mode of transportation, because without it, getting ahead in life is that much tougher. CTBC gives them a leg up. Or rather, a pedal up. 

If you wish to help them out, or just want to donate to a great cause, visit their website and help them save their shop. They’re currently 30k away from their goal in their efforts to buy the location and get necessary repairs done on the building, and anything you can provide helps. 

Over the weekend, on August 19th, Charleston-based band Homemade Haircuts released their debut album Sun Showers. They celebrated its release—and the coinciding birthday of drummer and Freeway teacher Blake Hunter—by performing downtown in Columbia’s New Brookland Tavern, with three opening bands who absolutely knocked it out of the park, keeping the energy high the entire night with performance after epic performance. 

First up was Clay Dixon and The Piccadillies, a folk-indie band from Gainesville, Florida, who came to Columbia while on a mini-tour. They opened with a cover of Hozier’s Like Real People Do, setting the tone before performing the first of their many great original songs that just kept raising the bar. The lead singer was definitely a crowd-pleaser, charismatic and kind, telling the backstory of each eclectic song they played. With the surprising and wicked use of a banjo and cello came songs such as Vice and The Warlock Witch of Armageddon that are guaranteed to worm—no pun intended—their way into your mind for weeks after hearing them for the first time. This band is geeky and colorful, and every member was a joy to interact with. What more could you ask from your next favorite band? Their EP, Live From My Home, is available on Spotify and YouTube. 

Following the Piccadillies is an indie-rock band also based out of Charleston, Whitehall, The Band. From the very first song they played, it was obvious that their eccentric and pulsing music was going to rock the tavern. Every member made the stage their own, moving around in the way only dedicated rockers do, headbanging and swinging long hair around. They filled every inch of the space with life, matching the crowd’s high-energy with their own ten-fold. It’s obvious that every member is in love with their experimental and loud jamming songs that will leave your ears ringing and head spinning in the best way possible. And if that wasn’t cool enough, they’ll be going on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls. Yes, THE Goo Goo Dolls. Be sure to check out their album Ocean Fiction and their latest EP Garden Song, also on Spotify. 

The final opener of the night was Paisley and the Birdwalkers based in South Carolina, with the frontwoman being Freeway’s very own awesome teacher Paisley Marie Suttlemyre. This all-girl band absolutely dominated the stage with their killer vocals, lovely harmonies, and fun fairy lights decorating the drum set. They seamlessly mixed multiple genres together—country, folk, pop, indie, rock, probably every other one— into a lively and killer rendition of their creative and dynamic original songs, including my personal favorite Solar Flare, a powerful ballad of female power. They kept the crowd’s energy up even as the night and drinks waned down, readying the stage for Homemade Haircuts. Even though they played last, they cemented a spot into the memory of all the listeners for many months to come. Check out their singles, Solar Flare and Hide from the Rain, on Spotify.

And finally, for the reason we’re here: the homies themselves, Homemade Haircuts. Paisley returned to the stage as the bassist, and this band took the lull of the late Friday night and ramped the energy all the way back to a thousand. Heavy and fast drums, killer guitars, and creative lyrics, the performance was a celebration of Sun Showers and all bands that played before them. At one point the lead singer of the Picaddillies hopped on stage to assist on a song with a tambourine. Voices were hoarse from all the well-deserved cheering and singing. They played every song on their new album before ending the night with their most popular song, Fairy Tale, as a thrilling finisher. 

Overall, the night was one to remember. Every single band that played that night was amazing, the musicians were kind on and off the stage, and they deserve every ounce of praise that can be given. 

Stream Sun Showers on Spotify, and support all these other bands! 

Every musician loves overcoming a challenge, and with drumming, a challenge is more than a sore throat or blisters from plucking strings. It takes a toll on your entire body—legs for the kick and hi hat, arms for the snare, cymbals, and toms, neck for headbanging—which means a challenge is as broad as music genres. 

Here are five songs to challenge your skills and push your limits as a drummer in a fun, exciting way. 

Brianstorm by Arctic Monkeys

Brianstorm is a powerful opener to Arctic Monkey’s album Favourite Worst Nightmare with a quick and heavy drum beat in the beginning that flies around the kit, transitioning swiftly into the first verse with a rapidfire hi hat that is dizzying to follow. This 2:50 minute song never never slows down, so it can be a great way to test out your arm and wrist strength. Although it seems like a simple enough beat, it’s the speed that truly makes it a fun challenge to tackle. 

Hot for Teacher by Van Halen

Starting strong with some double pedal action, this Van Halen song takes funky, offbeat rhythms and meshes them into a high energy classic that is sure to rile up any crowd. Hot for Teacher takes a lot of energy, physically and mentally, in order to power through. Although it might take some time to adjust to two pedals, once you’ve memorized all the stops and pattern changes, it’ll be smooth sailing for you there. 

Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin

Moby Dick is misleadingly easy at first, with a simple, jazzy tone at the beginning, but its simplicity is what makes it so challenging. It consists almost entirely of drumming, which means you get the spotlight. With sudden, fast movements that are sure to make you trip up during every listen, this Led Zeppelin song gives plenty of breathing room to be creative with your own fills—which in and of itself is a challenge—but also grants you bragging rights if you manage to memorize it. 

Goliath by The Mars Volta

This Mars Voltas song is bound to make any intermediate drummer have a heart attack out of pure intimidation. A loud, eccentric banger with lots of stops, it becomes simpler in the verse, but maintains that fast-faced energy all the way through. Not to mention Goliath is also over seven minutes long, no doubt testing any experienced drummer’s energy levels with just one playthrough, but is also a satisfying beast to tame. 

Ticks & Leeches by Tool

Another song that leans less on speed and more on disorienting beats that are hard to keep up with, Ticks & Leeches is 8 minutes of rock and metal ups and downs, giving pauses in between verses to grant you a break every now and then before diving straight into another fast, harsh chorus. If you’re a huge Tool fan with enough time to dedicate to learning every second of this, it’s a great song to push yourself to your drumming limits. 

Drumming takes many skills. Not only do you use both hands and feet on a kit, but they’re all most likely going to be doing different things at once. It takes practice to build the skill of rhythmic multitasking, which most drummers won’t have developed when they decide to pick up sticks for the first time.

Here’s five songs for beginning drummers that will help them build up the skills needed for harder songs. 

1: Do I Wanna Know by Arctic Monkeys

AM by Arctic Monkeys is full of songs with interesting and tricky drumming patterns that challenge a drummer to use their entire body. The exception, of course, is Do I Wanna Know, which has an easy to follow beat on the kick drum and snare during the verse. While the chorus does add some flare, with a different kick pattern and some high hat, the beat is steady and slow enough for starters to keep up with. 

2: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

Ah, the dreaded beginner’s song. While every instructor on the face of the earth may be sick and tired of hearing this song, that doesn’t change its simplicity that any new drummer can easily pick up without any prior experience. Sure, your teacher might lose their mind, hearing this song for the thousandth time, but it’s good practice to work up your leg muscle on the kick and teach your hands to do two different things at once. 

3: Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

Dreams, among many other Fleetwood Mac classics, is a great song for any beginner to try out. It has a sweet and mellow vibe that’s easy to keep up with on the kit. Although it’s slightly faster than the other songs on this list, it’s a great way to build up that high hat speed and have fun with new drumming patterns that don’t become too complex. This song also allows you to have some fun with fills and adding ghost notes to the pattern if you feel up to it.

4: Buddy Holly by Weezer

A loud, heart-thumping banger, Buddy Holly by Weezer is the perfect dip-your-toes song for any young rockers eager and ready to go all out without the struggle of a difficult drum beat. It has an easy tone to keep in time with, a slower pace so you don’t lose the tempo, and enough leeway to use the space and play any funky little drum fill that your heart desires. 

5: Psycho Killer by Talking Heads

This classic by the Talking Heads is one that everyone should learn purely for its funky bass, catchy guitar stings, and of course, the heart of the song: the drum beat. Although it’s nothing too difficult for a beginner, Psycho Killer leaves plenty of room to experiment with patterns, drum fills, and anything else your heart desires. And, if you’re feeling particularly experimental, try and play Cage the Elephant’s cover of this iconic song. 

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