The union of music (Part 1 of 3)

An Overlooked Underground Music Scene

AJ Valcin

“Union College had an official band?” I asked, both confused and excited.

"Yeah! We used a Union van and a trailer, and we took that van and trailer coast to coast," said Michael Adams (class of 2012). Adams played lead guitar and sang backing vocals for Union’s band, named "The Cause.” Between the years of 2008 and 2010, he and three other musicians toured the United States collecting contacts while representing Union College.

As Adams and I chatted outside The Mill on a breezy Wednesday night, I learned that he also played major roles in musical collectives "Peter and the Blankenships" and "Old Soul" during his time at Union. These two groups experienced personnel overlap during their official tenures, as their “folk & soul” sound contained spoken word elements over song interpretation, branded by street-corner soundscapes and improvisation.

“Our practices sucked,” laughs Micah Robinson (c/o 2014). “If you would’ve heard our practices, you would’ve been like, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna hear these guys in front of The Oven.'"

Nevertheless, all who were a part of "Peter and the Blankenships" and "Old Soul" had the talent to consistently execute a stellar musical experience on the street corners of downtown Lincoln. I was able to play with a particularly huge “Old Soul” collective back in my junior year on a fall weekend, and in turn enjoy the experience that Robinson spoke of so much in our recent FaceTime interview.

“Old Soul . . . doesn't just belong to [the members of the collective] . . . it belongs to everybody. [The band] is more so of an experience than just a title and a performer. Because we want everyone to be involved, whether you're watching, or whether you're singing along. We just want to cater to everyone who's around; all ages,” says Robinson.

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As I looked further into Union's history of student-led music groups, I learned a lot from my local Facebook community. Two groups of old I heard about the most were "Merely Pawns" and "Common Ground." Also mentioned was “Amethyst,” a metal-inspired group that blew the power out halfway through a 2008 UC Talent Show performance. A growing comprehensive list can be found here.

However, one question that keeps coming up as I have been compiling this article series is this:

“Students started bands at Union?”

The pulse of student-led music groups is palpable, extending from campus and into the surrounding cities. But despite the prolific music catalog of humanities professor Mike Mennard's kids music project "The Mighty Magic Pants," and the increasing local demand of former student Zack Watkins's rock/soul quintet "AZP," such exciting news flies under the radar so easily. Why is that?

More on Part 2, "The Disconnect."

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UC Record Picks of the Week

“The ‘Tarzan’ soundtrack by Phil Collins. You could write ten papers listening to that; it’s great study music.” - Kiana Myers

“Playing bluegrass music from either Ben Solle, Edgar Mayer, or Steve Martin, it takes me back to driving on a dirt road and a sunset. It really calms me down.” - Lombe Mundende

“Big Daddy Weave’s ‘The Only Name (Yours Will Be).’ When you think about it, the only thing that really matters is God.” - Buell Fogg

To add to that, I’d say that the “Where the Light Is: Live in LA” audio and video performance by John Mayer is blues rock perfection.

Keep up with all the “UC Record Picks of the Week” on this Spotify playlist, and feel free to send suggestions my way for future issues—my social media handle is @A2nelito.

AJ is a senior studying communication.