Columbia’s Stephens Lake Amphitheater summer concert series will come to an end Thursday evening with a showcase of local teenage musicians hosted by Columbia Public School’s Darkroom Records and 102.3 BXR.
All four acts performing at this week’s showcase are current or past patrons of Darkroom, the free recording studio for student use at Hickman, Battle and Rock Bridge high schools, as well as at the Boys & Girls Club of Columbia. Showcase performer Callie Brinkman is also an intern for Battle High School’s branch of Darkroom Records.
“It's not an easy process, but it's there,” Brinkman said. “And it's free. And you're making quality music. It’s so exciting and such a great outlet for people just to get started.”
Sixteen-year-old Brinkman grew up in a musical home, with both parents “obsessed” with music. However, her own musicality emerged at age 12. It was then she toured the Gibson guitar factory in Memphis, Tennessee, where she bought a guitar of her own.
“Ever since then I haven't put it down,” Brinkman said. “I’ve been taking lessons for four years.”
Brinkman describes her sound as that of an earthy, countrified amalgam of Norah Jones, Stevie Nicks and pop-rock band Orleans. These influences ring true in her song “Fair-Weathered Lover,” available on the Darkroom SoundCloud page.
Brinkman also plans to debut her track “Blue Ribbon In My Heart” at Thursday’s show. Her audience should expect to be “serenaded,” she says.
“I love music. I love writing music, I love singing,” she said. “I just want you to have a good experience.”
Across town underneath flickering fluorescent lights in her garage, Hickman High School 16-year-old Effie Lillig plays a simple chord progression on her acoustic guitar.
The wall is lined with a variety of string instruments and a vintage bicycle hangs from the ceiling. It’s here that Lillig practices and perfects her self-proclaimed Joni Mitchell and Simon & Garfunkel inspired indie sound.
Lillig also grew up with music, namely classics from The Beatles. Her musical epiphanies came in the form of instruments from various family members. These included a kelly green piano and a “teeny tiny” ukulele. Just last year, Lillig refurbished an old acoustic guitar with her father, which he gifted her upon finishing.
“That’s when I started getting more into music than I knew I had been in the past,” Lillig said.
These days, Lillig has become more focused on writing music to fit the genre she wants to play: indie, but with more grit in the lyrics and production. She provides her recent song “Green Eyes,” as an example: a politically inclined song about economic power dynamics and environmentalism.
“Drinking air like it’s lemonade, ‘cause you know you won’t be saved,” Lillig sings in this tune.
On Thursday, Lillig will perform her first song released through Darkroom titled “October.” She also says to expect a cover of John Denver’s classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads” at this week’s performance.
“Every set needs that,” Lillig said.
Rock Bridge senior Allie Bruns will also perform Thursday, sharing her Ryan Tedder-inspired pop sound with her original songs like “Song For You,” as well as covers of Billie Eilish’s “Bellyache” and Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.”
Bruns has developed a considerable performing portfolio in her tenure as a musician, playing at venues like Cafe Berlin, Rose Music Hall and various farmers markets and art shows. She hopes to make a career out of performing, and perhaps go on tour someday.
“It's my dream to just be able to make a living off of performing,” Bruns said. “I'm super excited to play on Thursday.”
On the north end of Columbia, brothers Ben and Henry Cohen’s father pulls up to an old house on Austin Avenue. Behind the house is a large red shack: the home of Centro Cellar Studio. A few minutes later, 16-year old Anders Harms shows up to the studio. Together, the three boys make up the pop and college rock band The Sweaters.
While growing up, Ben Cohen, 16, and Henry Cohen, 13, quickly established that Henry was a guitar player, and Ben was the drummer. Harms came to be a part of the ensemble after meeting the Cohens at nonprofit Compass Music Camp.
“Obviously Henry and I had been playing together for a really long time,” Ben Cohen said. “But we met Anders and then...we sounded so good. I guess we just decided we had to be a band.”
The band members pride themselves on the origin of their name, “The Sweaters.” It came about 15 minutes before the band’s first performance when they realized the ensemble was still unnamed.
“We were really trying to just throw it together. Two of us were wearing sweaters and we were just trying to figure out any name we could find,” Henry Cohen said. “Here we are, three years later,” Harms added.
The band also prides itself on its lack of ties to any particular genre of music. From alt-country to new wave inspired music, The Sweaters are no stranger to musical experimentation.
“It's definitely a huge variety of music that we listen to as a band. I think that's why our music doesn't just sound like one thing, like a different variety of influences,” Henry Cohen said. “It makes it a lot more interesting.”
The Sweaters will play a variety of new songs on Thursday, including the polished versions of songs from their upcoming album.
“This is really going to be, I think, a sneak peek of what we have in store,” Ben said.
Thursday’s Darkroom showcase is at Stephens Lake Park on Old 63 Highway, and admission is free.
Edited by Janae McKenzie | firstname.lastname@example.org