Thurs. Feb. 21
12 Cumberland St.
Entering the lamp-lit lair of Firework Show is quite a transformation from the typical college living situation. Furniture and TVs are intermingled with pedal boards, microphones, and musical instruments. Flyers for their upcoming gig at Johnson's Pub are scattered across the table with their school notebooks, empty pudding containers, and incense. Amplifiers in the windows complement the exposed brick wall of the downtown carriage house, and Christmas lights dangle from the ceiling.
"We want to keep everything that's here in here, but make it more space efficient," says drummer Brandon Gallagher about the confusion. "We need a music space and a living space. We're rearranging it all today."
You might remember Firework Show from their explosion onto the scene in 2006 with their sweeping win of CofC's Battle of the Bands at the Music Farm. As a simple three-piece that placed the drum set front and center, they couldn't be more in your face.
After cultivating a strong local following, musical interests and coincidences led to change. Former bassist Sean Robinson moved over to underground act Oicho Kabu, and Casey Atwater replaced him. Longtime friends Brandon Gallagher (drums) and Zach Bodtorf (guitar and vocals) remain the backbone to the band. Keyboardist Braxton Brown was recently added to the mix.
After discussing the spectrum of the Charleston music scene, Bodtorf concludes that Firework Show isn't really like anyone else in the area. "We're kind of right in the middle," he says. "We're not underground but also not as mainstream. I used to think it was because we didn't fit in, but now I know it's because we're creating our own path."
With facial hair as proof, you can tell these boys have matured and are hard at work.
They've been recording and practicing for months. With the help of computer programs like Garage Band and Cubase, they can practice, jam, experiment, and record for hours and then go back and listen to it later. "It's a whole new way of writing and recording songs," says Bodtorf.
The members have also matured as musicians. Since the old-school Firework Show days, Gallagher and Bodtorf have picked up music minors at the College of Charleston. Gallagher started taking drum lessons from acclaimed jazz drummer Quentin Baxter. "It was terrifying at first because he's so good," says Gallagher. "But once I got over that, I learned some of the most valuable things about how I play drums."
The band as a whole has taken a turn toward more layered indie/jam rock. "Jamming is really fun," says Gallagher. "Improv is how you write music, but you have to restrain yourself."
While jam bands tend to get a bad rep, Firework Show is smart about their sessions. No improv is without composition. "When we jam it sounds like a song. There's subconscious structure," says Bodtorf.
For their show on Thursday, expect some old favorites with a twist plus some new songs. They claim that no song is ever played the same, so listen for a new bridge here or an improv break there. Everything now has a keyboard part, whether it is the sounds of an organ or seemingly from outer space. Bodtorf's vocals are stronger than ever.
"Our music's become a lot more complicated and more intelligent," Gallagher says. "It is still really high-energy ... and loud!"