Show Review

The Ongoing Concept @ Park Street Saloon 10/2

                                                                                                                                                           (Sanchez/2015)
Lisa Sanchez

​When I begin to think of how to describe The Ongoing Concept, it always comes out sounding like a Americana legend, "Three brothers from Idaho and their childhood friend cut down a pine tree, built their own instruments, then set out across America to deliver their screaming, folksome brand of rock and roll to the masses." Well, believe it or not, that's exactly what happened. The band rolled into Park Street Saloon in Columbus, OH on October 2nd and vocalist/guitarist/craftsman Dawson Scholz met with me to chat about how difficult it is to build a drum set out of pine, why he doesn't let music get in the way of his writing process, and the band's Christian-esque tendencies.

The band is currently on one of the biggest comeback and throwback tours of 2015. Post-hardcore band Norma Jean (the unofficial kings of 2005 and my 16 year old adoration) are currently celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the release of the band's well-known album O God the Aftermath. The tour also features '68, fronted by former Norma Jean and The Chariot vocalist Josh Scogin, and Sleepwave, featuring current Underoath vocalist Spencer Chamberlain. The tour basically operates as a who's who of past and present psuedo-Christian hard rock stars.

Scholz commented on how he was glad he and The Ongoing Concept were on the tour package and how he felt the band fit well with the other acts, "Every show has been awesome, a lot of good response...We've gotten a lot of new people coming up to us every night going 'I've never heard of you, I didn't even know you were on the tour,' they're here for Norma Jean, or '68, but they'll be stoked on our band." Scholz said.

Handmade, the band's most recent album, was released June 16 of this year on Solid State Records. As the album title suggests, the band handmade all of their own instruments, all designed and cut from a single pine tree. Considering these instruments are one of a kind, I was curious if The Ongoing Concept took the risk and brought them on tour with them. "Yes, we have them. We're playing with them tonight," the guitarist said. 

Making your own instruments, recording your own music, and shooting your own videos is a sure-fire method to set yourself apart from the crowd, but to Scholz and his band the D.I.Y spirit was deeply ingrained from childhood. "We didn't grow up poor, but we didn't grow up rich. We grew up very middle class for Idaho. My parents, my dad especially, was never one to go out and buy something if he thinks he could either fix it or build it himself."

Scholz continued, "Growing up, we built so many things. There's so many things my dad built when I was growing up that I look at and go 'That's the most redneck thing I've ever seen' but it works. It totally works. It doesn't matter what the look is as long as it gets the job done. So, that was our whole mentality growing up and it's brought us into where we are now. We've built our own guitar cabs, we've done that for years, and that was easy. Then I thought, why not build everything? It can't be that hard to build a drum set. Same thing with guitars. It's just wood. I think it just comes from genetics slash influence from my dad."

The practice has gained the band respect from musicians and instrument novices alike, the guitarist stated, "It's hard to stand apart these days. I'm glad people appreciate it as much as they do. I didn't think they would. I didn't think an average person would find that cool if they weren't a musician themselves." 

But, building an entire band's equipment is still a tremendous undertaking on top of writing a new album. "I had a hard time being able to see what was going to happen. It's really difficult to prepare for something you've never even attempted and you haven't really found any info on how to do it. No one builds a drum set out of pieces of a pine tree. Pine is a horrible wood to use; it bends, it shrinks, it cracks, it does everything you don't want it to do. It was all a learning experience and we didn't have any way to plan and prepare for it. It was just a lot of trial and error." Scholz commented. 

The guitarist continued, " A lot of the stuff we did with the instruments, if we messed up, we had to start completely over. We would have to cut down a new tree and do it all over again. It's a lot of pressure. It's scary." I can guarantee most other bands don't have to worry about getting out their axes if they make a mistake prepping their instruments. But, if The Ongoing Concept  become especially bored and motivated, their fans may be able to look forward to more handcrafted goods from the band, "I love doing things ourselves. But, it's so much time. It's a cool idea. I definitely think we could do it way faster now that we've done it once. But, I mean, we're so busy, we don't have time to build our own stuff many times over. But, it was such a fun project I would love to do it again and maybe do stuff for other people that want to invest in a drum set made by The Ongoing Concept."

In addition to whittling down a massive pine tree, Scholz and The Ongoing Concept still had to worry about actually making their music, "On top of that, I had a hard time writing a lot of our music. I'm very perfectionist about my stuff and if I don't personally love it and can listen to it over and over and over again, and listen to the entire album all the way through without getting bored, I don't think our music is good enough so I will scrap whatever is not good enough and start over. And that happened quite a bit, it always happens, Saloon was the same way." Scholz said. 

The guitarist also shared that he usually stops listening to music months before he begins to write a new album, otherwise the music he writes will sound like what he's been listening to. "When I write music I don't listen to bands... There's a lot of bands that I'm influenced by, not music-wise, but who they are and who they've become over the years." Scholz added, "I always say Bring Me the Horizon is a very big influence, not necessarily because I love the music, the music is good....but I really am intrigued and influenced by the way they started as something and progressed over the years to what they are now. I really like that...The impact they have made on music itself is what I'm influenced by." 

Scholz is constantly trying to live up to the band's moniker and consistently evolve the band's sound, "There are a lot of bands that will release the same album with a slight difference five or six times and they just don't progress as a band and they plateau very quickly. Some can maintain that plateau for a very long time, but others just kind of go down hill. I don't want to be that kind of band. I want to be a band that's constantly climbing." Considering Scholz admitted he already has plans to release another album in 2017 it's a fair estimation The Ongoing Concept will maintain a steady evolution.

The Ongoing concept has often been represented as a "Christian" band, but Scholz somewhat balks at the idea. Even though the band are currently on a tour comprised largely of Christian-inspired acts, the guitarist would like to set the record straight about The Ongoing Concept while simultaneously coining one of my favorite descriptors in recent memory, "[Christian band] is a flawed term. We've never claimed to be a Christian band. We have Christian members. But, I don't always enjoy being labeled as that because we don't talk about God onstage, we don't really talk about God in our songs all the time." 

Scholz continued, "I really look up to Switchfoot in the fact that they've never claimed to be a Christian band, but people assume they are. I've always gone by that quote that John Foreman said, 'Jesus died for my sins, not my music' we've always been into that quote as a band. This is a Christian tour, although not all the bands may consider themselves Christian bands either. It's definitely a more Christian-esque tour than other tours would be the best way to put it." You heard it here first, if the music sounds this good I'll be the first practitioner at the alter of Christian-esque.

As The Ongoing Concept set up, the dudes behind me proceeded to ask vocalist/keyboardist Kyle Scholz if he handmade his electric keyboard and microphone as well. The singer amiable and simple replied "No" but given the craftsmanship of the member's instruments, I think with enough time they may be able to build a whole grand piano.

Dawson Scholz's guitar and TJ Nichols bass were both rustically beautiful. They were naturally pine colored, but you could see where the instruments had absorbed their player's sweat and grown darker around the top. You could also see the different pieces that had to be meticulously laid together to form Parker Scholz's bass drum, each panel unique with its different grain pattern. There is something strangely poetic in that, that an instrument can absorb part of the musician as it's being played just like when it was being made. 

The best way I can describe the band's stage show is sweaty, hardcore rock and roll ballet. Kyle Scholz belts his vocals out somewhere between utter urgency and riveted exaltation. He was great to watch considering he, at varying points in the performance, threw a shoe at the band's drummer, slapped bassist Nichols on the ass, chased him off the stage, then threw himself into the middle of the venue's floor, all while never missing a single note. 

There was a palpable level of comfort on stage among The Ongoing Concept's members as they played "Amends" and "Unwanted" off of Handmade. During our interview, Dawson Scholz mentioned that touring with his brothers isn't always easy, but he wouldn't have it any other way, "We fight more than people assume. We're brothers, so we definitely have our ups and downs. I would rather tour with my brothers than tour with a bunch of friends. I feel like friends are way more personal, like even if I fight or get into arguments with my brothers they're still my brothers. At the end of the day I still love them. But, with friends there's often more drama or bitterness toward people." Scholz said.

The band also made sure to play "Cover Girl" there best known song off of Saloon and ended with "Soul" where Kyle ventured off the stage with a drum and performed part of the song in the middle of the floor. 

From the band's interactions, to their delivery, and musicianship The Ongoing Concept's live performance was a wild success. They have the modest mannerisms of old-time country singers with the over the top stage presence  and energy of riotous hardcore bands. Their songs were engaging, well-performed and, with no disrespect to the other bands, one of the most fun openers of the night. 
 
The Ongoing Concept will continue touring with Norma Jean until the end of the month and is currently still in the works to secure a new tour for early 2016. Scholz said they look forward to releasing new content and that the band will continue to strive for individuality, "We're always thinking outside the box and we're always trying to fulfill our band name to the highest extent."