It all started on TikTok—a line that I feel we will all be hearing more and more in the coming years. At some point during this never-ending pandemic, I started following Will Parker’s incredibly popular and wholesome TikTok persona, Folk Punk Dad. He just radiates as a shining example of non-toxic masculinity. I was wrestling with my same old mental health issues as they manifested in entirely new ways, and I found his self-care videos to be incredibly uplifting.
On most occasions, I refuse to subscribe to any notions of destiny or fate. I have been living with bipolar disorder for two decades. In that time, I have experienced that terrifying sensation of feeling totally out of control more than I care to admit. In fact, most of my 2021 was spent learning new coping mechanisms to address the fact that my desperate drive to control every aspect of my own destiny had depleted me.
However, around the time I committed myself to the idea of creating this website, the TikTik algorithm did what it does best on any mild but slightly dreary November day. As I scrolled aimlessly in a mildly disassociated state, a TikTok by Folk Punk Dad appeared on my For You Page. He was shopping at a local Columbus shop, WildCat, with his lovely wife, the aptly named Manic Pixie Dream Mom, as they advocated for shopping small and local. So, I left a comment asking if they were based locally. Days later, I got an answer. They aren’t but had family in the area. Additionally, they would be back around Christmas and had a show at Dirty Dungarees on December 20th.
The whole situation seemed to be kissed with kismet. Folk Punk Dad had zero idea who I was, and I, coincidently enough, cannot recall if I had heard any of Folk Punk Dad’s music prior to that day. The TikTok algorithm, which is both toxic and tender in equal measure, targeted me with Parker’s empathically compelling self-care videos—which is why I followed him. I, of course, respond by commenting instantly and with absolutely zero hesitation that I just started a website where I write reviews for musicians performing live in Columbus.
I was so inspired by the idea of reviewing someone whose work within a different creative medium inspired me. I was invigorated with all the different ways I could expand my freshly created brand through content creation on social media. I was giddy to introduce my budding readership to the incredibly inclusive and altruistic folk-punk community with three nuanced acts at a venue that was new to me. I was exhilarated by the idea of taking my vocation and making it my vacation. I was finally in a “good” mental place. I was in the driver’s seat, manifesting my dreams! I was…manic…
A couple weeks later, I was grappling with the fact that I literally started a business during a manic episode. This was supposed to be a hobby, but I took it on with manic ferocity as I chased the dopamine. Then I bottomed out…but the website was taking off.
It rained all day on December 20th. It was cold, but not cold enough for a more seasonably appropriate snow shower. We arrived at Dirty Dungarees on the depressive episode struggle bus, but I wore my brave face. Luckily, after receiving the show invite from Folk Punk Dad, I searched his TikTok account for some of his music. I discovered a wonderful little ditty called “My Brain is Not a Part of My Heart,” which he wrote with his wife, Cecelia Bellomy. This endearing duet was so breathtakingly melodic and melancholy yet sweetly uplifting. It was immediately added to my “brave faces for ‘bad brain’ days” playlist.
We are too often told that love heals all, but love is not enough in reality. Love doesn’t eliminate past trauma, and love doesn’t cure bipolar disorder. One of the things that my husband often struggles with is that even if he could be the perfect partner, it wouldn’t make the “bad brain” days disappear. My Brain is Not a Part of My Heart addresses this quandary with compassionate tenderness while still showcasing how healthy and happy relationships can blossom even as we struggle with mental illness. I knew if that song could be the perfect soundtrack for the day, then this show had the potential to be something exceptional.
And it was!
Local musician and one-man band Yard Sign opened the show, and like every 2021 show that I have reviewed this year on the site, the opening act came to melt faces…but this time, it was with the kazoo solos. If you know me, you know I love me a gimmick band. I have every Masked Intruder album on vinyl. Yard Sign is the brainchild of New York native turned Columbus resident Scott M. Marks. I honestly wish we knew about this guy sooner because we would have booked him to play the cocktail hour at our wedding in a stone-cold heartbeat.
Yard Sign entertained the audience with a healthy blend of originals and covers, many of which featured rousing kazoo solos and harmonies. But don’t be mistaken, Marks can hold his own on the guitar. Yard Sign’s use of the kazoo is an ingenious strategy for adding depth of sound—along with a healthy dose of humor—to the one-man act. This clever gimmick allows Marks to serenade the audience with both the melodic lead and backing rhythm sections of familiar songs without missing a beat.
His rendition of This Year by the Mountain Goats would have been stirring enough on its own, but we were lucky enough to witness a Yard Sign tradition as BlueRaspberry joined Marks on stage and made the song feel even more gratifying. However, my favorite moment was when Marks announced that he would be playing a song by one of his absolute favorite bands—The Bouncing Souls. I may or may not have let out a surprised squeal of delight. Bouncing Souls never get enough love, but a promising Bouncing Souls cover is a guaranteed way to find yourself #ontheradar.
But you can’t sleep on Yard Sign’s original songs, which is why we need to know #WhereAreTheyPlayingNext? Marks’ songwriting is indulgently rich and witty. I look forward to seeing him perform live again as I want to write a more in-depth review. Especially when so many of Yard Sign’s songs are beautifully faceted reflections on how the pandemic has changed everyone so fundamentally.
Fellow residents of Columbus, Yard Sign is just one more reason why we need to get these case numbers way down. Yard Sign can make an intimate show at a laundromat feel as engaging as an arena concert. He brought kazoos for everyone. However, with the Omicron variant running rampant and numbers skyrocketing, the audience couldn’t join in on the kazoo solo on his “I Melt With You” cover. This entire generation has lived through way too many “once in a lifetime” events. We deserve to have one of those events to be our opportunity to join a giant choir of kazoos as we rock out to a Modern English cover song.
Before BlueRasperry went on, Will Parker asked my fiancé and me our names. Little did we know that he would improvise a song where he thanked everyone, including the bartender, for being there. Parker didn’t need to ask anyone else their names, he did confirm a couple, but the fact that he made an effort to perform such a simple kindness should not be overlooked. This small but meaningful gesture—especially so close to the holidays—acknowledges and validates everyone and creates a safe space when people may need it the most.
That kind of considerate compassion and commitment to creating a safe space extended throughout their performance as they wore their masks throughout out their set. Cecelia gave an impassioned monologue about never feeling ashamed for doing the right thing even when other people give you judgemental remarks.
When I am not recording or photographing musicians at shows, I write my musings and initial impressions in my notes app. These notes are primarily used as points of inspiration for my reviews and rarely contain anything particularly poetic. However, in my notes, I described BlueRaspberry as a “musical love story in motion.”
Their tender duets and ballads are so endearing as the advocate for self-care and explore topics like loving someone while living with mental illness. BlueRaspberry utilizes unassumingly simple lyrical patterns and musical numbers that empower both members to play to their strengths while creating opportunities for spontaneous improvisation and audience participation. For example, the audience helped name a plush Bellomy received as a gift, and without delay, this pair of soulmates crafted a song on the spot as they improvised music and wrote the lyrics organically in real-time.
This dynamic and wholesome duo has thoroughly captured my attention, and their debut album is currently my #mostanticipated album of 2022. This is the kind of music I want in the background as I dance with my husband in our kitchen while we cook dinner. Their songs are songs that we will quote on my “bad brain” days because sometimes I need to hear, “If you have to beat yourself up, try to do it with a pillow.”
And finally, we come to St. Augustine’s Day, Will Parker’s solo musical act. St. Augustine’s Day put on an #emotionallycharged performance with an incredibly moving set. However, I think I must include a CONTENT WARNING here. Like BlueRaspberry, St. Augustine’s Day explores the realities of mental illness, but from a very different angle. BlueRaspberry examines mental illness and trauma through the lens of love and partnership while heaping on an extra dose of whimsy. Meanwhile, St. Augustine’s Day navigates these themes through the lens of self and personal growth—making his songs far more paroxysmal and raw. I wasn’t expecting this and was caught off-guard.
I want to say this carefully because although it may sound critical, it is truly a compliment of the highest order: St. Augustine’s Day is so visceral that Parker’s music sometimes borders on uncomfortable. The primary goal of most musicians is typically one of two things: either tell a story and/or make you feel something. St. Augustine’s Day has an uncanny knack for achieving both goals, especially when it comes to grief. The sudden and traumatic loss of Parker’s best friend is the subject of many of his songs. So as Parker delves into a detailed introspection of grieving while living with bipolar disorder, you may feel such emotional extremes like the frantic agitation of a manic survival push while being stuck in place. Or the mournfully crushing weight of a depressive episode as you struggle to find a reason to live again. St. Augustine Day will make you feel something, but those feelings are often messy and complex.
When you have bipolar, you learn to get really good at having bad days. Like my day on December 20th, for example, and I feel like I need to marinate on St. Augustine’s Day and my own feeling of grief some more. As someone who lost a beloved friend very suddenly to suicide, I owe it to St. Augustine’s Day and myself to hear his songs performed live now that I know his work better and can prepare myself to be in a better headspace.
So whether I will be covering one of their performances in Ohio or in his and Cecelia’s home of New Haven, Connecticut, you will likely see a more in-depth review of BlueRaspberry and St. Augustine’s Day at some point in 2022.
In closing, the rise of the folk-punk genre in these uncertain times could be evidence of our ability to overcome with kindness. Too often, we are taught to suppress difficult emotions instead of processing them. Meanwhile, we have Yard Sign helping us navigate the fact that most of us are so radically different from the people we were in March of 2020. As we are struggling with the trauma of being two years deep in an indefinitely long pandemic, BlueRaspberry encourages us to be easy on ourselves. And, in a time where too many of us are grieving, St. Augustine’s Day reminds us that there is no shame in wrestling with that grief.
I don’t know what is in store for us in 2022, but self-care and compassion will be essential if we want things to improve. So, get on TikTok and find your local folk-punk musicians and give them a listen. Support the musicians featured in this blog. I don’t know what the live music scene will look like as numbers rise, but we have to do what we can to support musicians because music will be a critical component of our healing.