Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

It’s a modern trend to take a kid’s show or movie and mature it in a remake for its now-adult audience. Whether or not this is a success depends on the medium and the heart behind each project, but many original fans tend to stray away from most remakes of their beloved nostalgia-tripping shows.

Scooby Doo is not immune to this, having been adapted and revamped and parodied for decades now, and it seems like every iteration hits the same beats in order to tell a story that’s ‘never been done before.’ However, one diamond shines among the coals: a particular one-act play hidden in a nerdy corner of the internet, and its new holiday-themed musical sequel that refreshingly expands upon the mystery parody genre.

The Solve-It-Squad Returns, made by comedy trio Tin Can Bros in 2017, follows a kid detective team twenty years after their falling out when a familiar face from their past resurfaces and forces them to work together again. Conflicts arise, sandwiches are made, and in true Scooby Doo fashion, traps are set all to catch this not-so-new bad guy causing mayhem. After solving this decades-long mystery—I highly recommend checking out the show for yourself for the excellently executed twist at the end—they decide to stay together and reignite the Solve-It-Squad. This one-act play was well-received and has grown a deserved internet cult following in the coming years, even getting an off-Broadway production in 2018.

With three script reads of potential animated episodes made over COVID, the Bros returned in 2022 stronger than ever with a musical sequel: How The Grunch Cribbed Christmas. Yes, that’s the actual title. Acting as a fake charity livestream with diegetic nondenominational bangers, The Grunch keeps the spirit of its crime-solving roots and adapts a holly jolly tone to it. Be warned: there is plenty of mature themes and jokes in both, so if you’re young enough to still be watching Scooby-Doo, skip this one.

With absentee parents, quick changes up the wazoo, and a mysterious Grinch-esque monster running amuck that the Solve-It-Squad must unmask, there is something to satisfy diehard fans excited to see their beloved characters on stage again—and singing this time, no less—while granting enough context and novelty not to isolate anyone uninitiated to the Tin Can Bros universe. 

The Grunch uses its small, intimate stage to its advantage by making crowd participation an active plot device. It engages different audience members for funny scenes while carrying out jokes to satisfy callbacks later. Because the audience is canonically present in the story, the characters are allowed to roam around and between the chairs, blurring the line between audience and actor. 

The music, written by the talented Nick Gage, is fun and addictive to listen to, carrying a festive cheer throughout that is guaranteed to end up on your Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa playlist. It’s entirely in-universe as well, meaning plenty of holiday bells jingling and excellent staging by stage manager Tammy Babich.

This musical takes itself less seriously than its predecessor, having fewer emotionally driven scenes at moments it felt needed. Though it’s not a surprise, given its inspiration, they rely on the quirky, cartoonish humor most Scooby-Doo parodies tend to stray from to undermine what could’ve been powerful scenes if given breathing room. Coming off a play that held a better balance between the jokes and the serious scenes, this sequel is far more comedic, sometimes to its detriment. 

However, the humor makes up for what it lacks in quiet moments. The Grunch still allows their characters time to show their growth between the two installments which feels like genuine progress. They’re played as actual people rather than caricatures of characters from another show. With a sweet but silly message, engaging audience interactions, and near-perfect performances by their small cast—seven people in its entirety, an upgrade from the whopping six from the first—How The Grunch Cribbed Christmas has all you need to make it onto your holiday movie list for years to come.

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.

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. 

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