Guitarist Ben Lambert sings and plays lead guitar with his band Gran Mal at the CoMo Jams BBQ music festival on Saturday. His band performed as the opening act.

Tim Nwachukwu/Staff Photographer

The band New Tongues take the stage on Saturday outside The Hair Hole during the CoMo Jams BBQ . The band, along with many other local underground bands, played at the event to raise money for the Hair Hole and awareness of Columbia's growing independent music scene.

Tim Nwachukwu/Staff Photographer

CoMo embraces independent music at First Annual CoMo Jams BBQ

A night of music, food and record swapping helped musicians sustain Columbia’s underground music scene.

By Anthony Orso | Aug. 26, 2012

Tags: Music


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When we start our cars, it’s commonplace to turn on the radio and hear the same nauseating song by One Direction or LMFAO on repeat. When we turn on the TV, we see Hayden Panettiere splashing her glossy, Neutrogena-covered skin with water. And in the process, we become oblivious to undiscovered bands, actors and other developing artists.

Such is the nature of living in a world of mass mainstream media.

However, Columbia locals decided to stand strong for their independent music scene at the First Annual CoMo Jams BBQ on Saturday afternoon.

In front of Orr Street Studios in the North Village Arts District, people sporting tattoos, gauges and beat-up Chuck Taylors set up amplifiers and grilled burgers for a night of hardcore rocking out. Boxes of vinyl filled with albums from Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane and other artists were placed on folding tables. At 3 p.m., the music began, and the concert space began to light up with the artistically edgy souls who don’t mind hours of deafness.

This event featured four bands: Gran Mal, Coward, Dark Blue Dark Green and New Tongues. Gran Mal relies on forceful beats, hectically explosive runs and (dare I say?) screaming. Lighter than Gran Mal is Coward, which relies frequently on instruments versus vocals but has similarly eerie overtones. New Tongues picks up the R-rated “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” atmosphere present in Coward and Gran Mal but often uses the brooding bass as its leader.

Dark Blue Dark Green, however, takes the cake for the most unusual amongst its counterparts. Lead vocals are sung with more clarity, interludes depart from musical structure, and the band plays with a quirky, funky grunge reminiscent of silly mania.

This concert not only offered intense music for its fans but also functioned on a symbolic level. Ultimately, the bands had one thing in common: a passion for what they do.

“We are planting a flag,” event coordinator Matt Crook said as he sold vinyl records.

To these dedicated musicians, having such a concert makes a statement that the artists are devoted to preserving the authenticity and value of their music, despite the serious challenges it poses.

“Everything is developing,” Crook said, referring to the daunting tasks underground musicians face in keeping up with the ability to uphold studios and remain autonomous. For these starving artists, the barbecue and music stuck into the ground their national colors.

The average onlooker might label these bands as heavy metal and hardcore hipsters, but local musicians see each other as innovative artists meshing to form one expressive musical culture. This is what they are fighting for.

When asked what genre of music was being played, one local musician said, “Columbia music. There’s no specific genre.”

Is this music for the faint of heart? No, but that is beside the point. With electric notes flaring into the crowd, these musical crusaders sung the value of having a voice into the generic world, which is something to which we can all open our minds (and ears).

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