Human Beings Are Naturally Resilient Creatures: An Evening with Rising Appalachia & Dustin Thomas

Needless to say, it’s been a rough week. [Last] Thursday was particularly awful for me, and, if I’m being honest, the last thing I wanted to do after my 6 p.m. class was travel downtown and be surrounded by people for another four hours. But I’ve been looking forward to this concert for weeks now, so I put on my comfy pair of cords and hopped on the bus. As I walked onto the floor of The Showbox, I was cut off by a pre-teen in Heelys doing laps around the dance floor and my mood shifted instantly.

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Photo courtesy of Dustin Thomas’ Official Facebook Page

A few minutes later, two tiny tots ran across the room screaming for Dustin Thomas, who gathered them up in one of the most genuine hugs I’ve seen lately. Thomas took to the stage with a Jameson and apple juice in one hand, his guitar in the other saying, “I think we can agree we need music now more than ever,” and played a 45-minute set full of love, peace, and shakas after every song.

The end of his set featured a tribute to Leonard Cohen, and a medley including John Mayer’s “Waiting On the World to Change,” Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” and Bob Marley’s “Rastaman Live Up.” Everyone took refuge in Thomas’ energy and music by singing along, laughing, and dancing.

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Photo by Phillip Johnson

Chloe and Leah of Rising Appalachia took to the stage, riddle with instruments, and started off their set with “An Invitation (of a Call to Action),” an aptly-timed song that set the tone for the rest of the evening. Biko Casini (percussion) and David Brown (bass) joined the sisters on stage for the song “All Fence and No Doors,” a tribute to New Orleans written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This was when listeners really got a taste for the inherent musicality of the band; a kind of artistry that evolves with a person as they grow and cannot be taught, at least to such an extent. This is traditional folk music mixed with the best of NOLA.

With the unsettling result of the presidential election, Leah reminded the audience that “if you see something, say something.” Having privilege in this society does not mean you get to sit back on your safety as others are oppressed by actions privilege allows. This message was further enforced with the song “Occupy,” featuring lyrics like, “Occupy Wall St./Occupy your basic rights/Occupy the front lines/And when its time, step up to fight… that echo the current protests happening across the country.

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Another song that really spoke to me was “Wider Circles,” the name of their most recent 2015 album, prior to which Chloe encouraged us to widen our circles, open up, and spend time with those who think differently from us. Moving to Canada won’t solve our problems, but moving to a conservative state and teaching in public schools or providing your art to a different community could alter the course of the future.

Many of the shows on this Resiliency Tour feature a local artist of one kind or another. During two songs tonight, the sisters invited a flow artist named Jay up on stage to perform with clear contact balls and, later on, what I believe were flofins! This guy’s rhythm and timing was so spot on, I felt like I was physically seeing the music, and I was reminded that the arts can cross over into different mediums, enhancing the collective experience.

Other highlights included a version of Louis Armstrong’s “St. James Infirmary” and a mashup of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Downtown” with their own song of the same name. (Hey, Mac: these soulful, kick-butt ladies are open to collaboration if you’re down[town]!)

If you haven’t figured it out already, activism, in collaboration with art and community, runs deep in the veins of these artists. They invited a few organizations to table the show, providing concert goers with posters, stickers, information, and more. Organizations involved included the Amplifier Foundation, the North Cascades Institute, and the Prison Yoga Project.

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Artwork for Amplifier Foundation


EMMA PIERCE | “Music is healin, y’all!” – April | KXSU Music Reporter

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