Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

If there’s anything to know about drummers, it’s that we’re loud, both behind and away from the kit. But there’s a time and place for noise, and a thin-walled apartment is not one of them. RTOM’s Black Hole mesh practice set is perfect for musicians who want to avoid a complaint for their neighbors and still jam out in the comfort of their own home. 

These muted pads maintain the stiff feel of a drum set while producing a fraction of the sound. It’s so quiet that your neighbors wouldn’t even know you were playing unless they saw you. The tension of the mesh pad is adjustable, just like tuning a regular drum, so it can be looser or tighter depending on your preference. They’re also easy to install; you just pop them on top of your kit and start playing, no assembly required. 

Of course, the high price will deter many, especially college-aged drummers on a budget. For professionals and anyone playing long-term, though, the investment will pay off in the long run. While they dampen noise, other cheap brands lie directly on the drums heads, meaning they still create more sound than some might be comfortable with. The Black Hole hovers above the drum pads themselves, holding on from the metal rim, meaning there’s no chance for any resonance to shake the drums and make more noise than necessary. 

On top of that, the mesh maintains a greater surface tension that allows drumsticks to bounce off the same way they do a regular drumhead. Other mute pads made of foam or plastic tend to cushion them, slowing you down while you play and taking away the stick’s essential rebound that allows you to play faster. These foam pads also can tear easily with use over time, while a few tightening fixes any lost tension the mesh pads have.

However, there is the glaring issue of no cymbal pads. This set is often suggested to be paired with a set of quiet cymbals, which can ramp up the cost an uncomfortable amount. The mesh pads can also be temperamental if you’re a heavy hitter. The kick drum, in particular, is susceptible to collapsing, eating up your time having to tighten the mesh every now and then.

Despite this, their high quality and longevity make the price well worth it if you’re interested in investing in these mesh pads. Once you buy them, they’re with you for the long run. 

In the era of remakes and revivals, love for the slasher genre has returned with a vengeance. But while movie tickets sell out, a new contender comes to steal the spotlight: musical theater.

The third installment of the popular Hatchetfield series, Nerdy Prudes Must Die (also known as NPMD) is the latest production by Starkid Productions, written by genius brothers Nick and Matt Lang. This musical theater powerhouse has done several parody and self-referential musicals in the past.

This horror-comedy follows a group of nerds who seek revenge on their bully Max with a prank that ends in a fatal three-story fall. Unfortunately for them, Max returns as a vengeful ghost hellbent on killing the so-called nerdy prudes he blames for his death. Thus ensues a race against time for the nerds to find a way to stop Max while the local cops close in on them.

Despite being a part of a longer storyline, Nerdy Prudes Must Die balances callbacks to its predecessors while standing well on its own. It takes well-loved tropes and successfully alters them while maintaining loyalty to the genre. Add in some eldritch deities, a cultish town secret, and a cop subplot, and NPMD becomes a melting pot of niches that come naturally to the eclectic story it tells.

The opening title, “High School is Killing Me,” directly ties into the idea of the teen’s struggle to survive high school, using violent language and choreography to perpetuate this notion. We’re also introduced to our three cliche-filled protagonists: sheltered and religious Grace Chastity, nervous nerd Pete Spankoffski, and rebellious party girl Stephanie Lauter.

Each character falls easily into a character type often found in slashers, but leans into them in a clever, self-aware way. Max shows a unique understanding bullies seldom have while also reiterating his status as a high school menace, as seen in “Literal Monster,” a song structured to show the nerds, the prey, being hunted by Max, the predator. 

Grace Chastity, the only true nerdy prude of the friend group, kickstarts the rest of the story. Her forbidden attraction to Max drives her to prank him and subsequently hide his body, as seen in the cleverly named songs “Bully the Bully” and “Bury the Bully.” She ropes the other nerds into keeping quiet about their accidental manslaughter, a reference to I Know What You Did Last Summer with a nerdy twist.

Despite it leaning on the humorous aspect of horror-comedy, NPMD easily hits several emotional beats, making you care for Max’s victims with little time on stage. While Pete and Stephanie’s budding relationship begins as a cute distraction from the sex-crazed felonies Grace has been committing, it grows into something far larger than the climax of the musical hinges upon; they’re given the choice to sacrifice what they love most in order to stop Max, and what they cherish most is each other. Fair warning, however: “Cool as I Think I Am (Reprise)” will make you bawl your eyes out.

Nerdy Prudes Must Die is a love letter to teen slashers, displaying the evolution the genre has had over the decades in musical form. It is available to watch in its entirety on YouTube.

Do you love zombie movies, but wish there was more romance? Well, then Zombie Prom is the musical for you! Taking place in the radioactive 50s, this zom-com has everything, from a forbidden love story, science fiction undertones, and thrilling plot twists.

High school sweethearts Toffee and Jonny are torn apart after their secret relationship is exposed by their parents, who don’t want their lovely straight-and-narrow daughter involved with a reckless bad boy. Distraught after their break up, Jonny drives his motorcycle into a nuclear plant outside of town, and returns to school weeks later glowing green and wanting to win Toffee’s heart back. He has a newfound determination to graduate, and to take Toffee to prom as a declaration of his undying love.

Although she’s unsure whether this revived relationship will work, Toffee’s friends urge her to try it if she loves him, even if he’s more green than guy. That, and the aptly named principal Mrs. Strict has created a rule just for Jonny to complicate their plans: no zombies at school! All the while, a local reporter digs into Jonny’s undead past that is sure to bring to life a long dead secret.

This musical is perfect for lovers of 50’s rock and romcom lovers with a taste for horror. If you’re interested, be sure to come and see Zombie Prom live! Columbia Children’s Theatre and Freeway Music have partnered up to give you a performance to die for. Be sure to keep an eye out for more details the closer the date becomes!

Many artists evolve from their old styles as they mature in their music, oftentimes causing uproar within the fanbases. Popularity can stagnate or even decline when they change styles, even if it is for the better. The Front Bottoms are no strangers to this, but they push through and allow themselves to change as creators, and all of us avid listeners are grateful for it.

This New Jersey-born rock band is best known for their earlier works with heavy acoustic guitar, messy drums, and raw vocals that cemented Midwest emo into the musical zeitgeist. Since then, though, they’ve leaned more towards the indie scene, switching the acoustic guitar for an electric one and cleaning up the sound while keeping the same intricacies in their lyrics that always enticed people to listen closely.

Their newest album, You Are Who You Hang Out With, dropped last week, and it looks back into their previous styles with their first three singles released in anticipation. “Emotional” starts off the album with a bang, an eclectic indie-pop single that takes from their style from their previous album, In Sickness & In Flames. The next two, “Outlook” and “Punching Bag,” look back into their discography, the sound reminiscent of Talon of the Hawk and Back on Top, two albums that forged their style into the hearts of fans. These two songs talk about getting stuck in the past and using music as an escape.

The rest of the songs showcase the new sound first experimented with in Going Grey and developed with each consecutive album. The Front Bottoms distort the vocals to stay true to the shaky novelty of their earliest songs and keep the same vibes they had before: happy sound, sad lyrics.

You Are Who You Hang Out With is a great addition to The Front Bottoms’ extensive discography, paying respect to their beloved past works while looking forward to newer, better things. It perfectly encapsulates the struggle of growing out an important phase of your life despite understanding it’s for the better because there are some things better left in the past and revisited on occasion rather than becoming stuck in the past with what’s familiar and comfortable. With this powerhouse of an album, The Front Bottoms is only going up from here, as they always have been.

You can listen to You Are Who You Hang Out With on Spotify, YouTube, and anywhere else you stream music.

As the tail end of summer approaches, the music scene is bursting at the seams with released singles, EPs, and upcoming albums. Indie-rock soloist Briston Maroney contributes to this new flow of welcomed songs with a two-sided single, “Detonator,” along with its companion piece, “The Idea.” This pair of songs perfectly set up the tone and voice we’ll be hearing in Maroney’s sophomore album, Ultrapure, that comes out on September 22nd, along with two other singles that all tell a story about making the most of your youth despite the circumstances. 

“Detonator” tells the story about someone discovering they’re in love with a friend who’s still hung up on their ex, though you wouldn’t realize that on your first listen. This summery song carries a twinge of sadness hidden by airy guitar and the steady tempo courtesy of the drums. It encapsulates the feeling of late nights and short-lived summer romances, perfect for blasting with your windows down on the way to the beach for a midnight swim.

On the other end, “The Idea” focuses more on acoustics, piano and gentle vocals. It evokes a nostalgia that directly opposes “Detonator” yet ties neatly into the suspected theme of this album: the realization that, eventually, all the good and bad that comes with being young, will be in the past. This song comes off more reminiscent than the previous but holds similar themes of young love and the tribulations that come with growing up. 

His other two recent releases, “Sunburn Fades” and “Body,” both featured on Ultrapure, carry the theme of the struggle that young adults go through, balancing the beginnings of their lives while also trying to hold onto their youth as long as they get it. “Sunburn Fades” is more broken down—acoustic guitar and Maroney’s signature voice taking the forefront—while “Body” carries an airy tone similar to “Detonator.”

Ultrapure releases closer to the middle of autumn, perfect timing for school’s return right around the corner, but these songs can be played year round. After all, there’s never a bad time to think about your youth and appreciate the time you have left while also reminiscing on the time that’s already past. And the perfect album will be waiting for you to play on repeat. Don’t forget to preorder Ultrapure before the opportunity passes you by.

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. 

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