The rise of a new Purdue underground live music scene
How Please Her and dozens of other bands armed with guitars, spreadsheets and pent-up COVID shutdown energy are feeding a resurgent Purdue underground live music scene
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Today’s Based in Lafayette is a dispatch from the basements and backyards near Purdue, via correspondent and friend Tim Brouk. Enjoy.
PLEASE HER, DOZENS OF OTHER BANDS FEED RESURGENT PURDUE UNDERGROUND LIVE MUSIC SCENE
By Tim Brouk / For Based in Lafayette
It’s almost unbelievable, but in the last few years, a live music scene has exploded in the neighborhoods around Purdue University. What started with a couple bands and a house venue soon after the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied to shows most every weekend, boasting at least three or four Boilermaker acts per party.
According to the excellent Instagram channel Every Lafayette Music, 40 – yes, 40 – Purdue bands were accounted for and released in a digital directory (so Purdue) in August. Some need a drummer here or a bass player there. Some are cover bands, but most rock well and have written original tunes, usually accompanied by some covers on the set list. Still, the sheer amount of Purdue bands is unprecedented. It’s the most excitement generated by Boilermaker bands since the Jurassic Park/Pop scene of the early 2010s.
After years devoid of anything exciting between the last Jurassic Pop-affiliated bands to move away, suddenly there are over 100 students that have picked up guitars, drumsticks or microphones to perform for their fellow Boilers. How did this happen? Sarah Schultz, vocalist for “funk rock fusion” or “scorpion core” five-piece Please Her has a theory.
“It is an outlet. It is something that inspires people. You go to a house show; you see it. You see the magic that occurs in these basements. It’s something that they want to be a part of, and they can.” Schultz, a Purdue psychology senior, said. “Most of us were 2020 COVID kids, so our whole freshman year of college, there was no live music. I, personally, for a year-and-a-half, had been itching to get a band.”
And like that terrible virus, the music bug spread quickly around West Lafayette.
Aside from the house shows, most of these bands fill various campus event bills. For instance, Please Her was the musical entertainment at the last Purdue Fashion Show in April as opposed to someone’s Spotify playlist. Please Her performed a mix of originals and covers, and Schultz even served as emcee for the event. Plus, the number of bars near Purdue is down to just a handful, and none of them on Chauncey Hill offer live bands.
“The shows give something for everyone,” Schultz said. “There are so many different bands that fit with certain groups of people that have a massive reach. And they’re cheaper than the bars. It’s not bar culture, drinking culture if you don’t want it to be. They offer a lot more value.”
At all 21- or 22 years old, Please Her are Purdue scene “veterans.” Like many, the five-piece began with covers before writing originals. Formed in 2021, the band progressed enough to successfully navigate two summer tours. Splitting equipment and bandmates into a Volkswagen Jetta and a Toyota Tacoma, Please Her executed about two weeks in May and another week-long tour in August. The stops included Chicago thrice, Detroit twice, Atlanta, Cleveland; Columbus and Toledo, Ohio; and Kalamazoo, Michigan. There was another spreadsheet created for organizing driving shifts (so, so Purdue).
The experiences were crucial. Touring not once but twice separates Please Her in terms of ambition from many of their Purdue band peers. With all five musicians hailing from different states, about a quarter of the tour stops were in someone’s hometown. Still, the core memories of tour life have only empowered Please Her.
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“I was like a kid in a GD candy store,” Schultz laughed. “As a music hobbyist, touring is something I’ve always dreamed about. I just always wanted to do it, for better or for worse. We’re stuck with each other. We’re hungry, but we loved it. We got to play shows every night.”
Moms and dads were in attendance, as were old high school friends. The Atlanta gig was at a venue drummer Brian Williams would peek into often when he was growing up in that city.
“To be able to play there in Atlanta and to be on-stage looking at that window, but from the other side, it was a great experience,” Williams recalled. “It was a cool milestone for sure.”
‘We’re a cult’
Please Her is most of the five musicians’ first band. The joy, creativity and unbridled energy is palpable. Schultz likes to say Please Her is not just a band.
“We’re the holy church of Please Her. We’re not a band; we’re a cult,” said Schultz, who often uses a squirt bottle with “Please Her holy water” Sharpied on it to anoint new fans. “Each show a church service. We make people pray to Her in the middle of every set.”
The seeds of Please Her were planted near a West Lafayette house venue backyard tree. During a break between bands, guitarist Connor Cassidy climbed a tree for a precarious rest when Schultz spotted him and struck up a conversation. A mutual desire of wanting to start a band was brought up in conversation and the rest of the band trickled in.
“We’re not a band; we’re a cult.”
Influenced by bands like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Ween and Primus, the Please Her sound is eclectic to say the least. Plus, all five musicians have embarked on different musical paths before joining Please Her. Keyboardist and guitarist Sarah Rinker is a classically trained pianist, and Cassidy played cello through middle school and some of high school before switching to guitar. Bassist Michael King noodled with an electric guitar in high school and never touched a bass guitar until joining the band. Williams and Schultz caught the performance bug through their respective cities’ School of Rock programs, which teaches young kids different instruments, songwriting and how to perform the tunes live. Williams also taught Rinker how to play guitar over Facetime in the band’s early stages.
In 2022, Please Her scored numerous shows and fans. The band’s chops were impressive but also the unexpected live shenanigans created a buzz for Please Her. A favorite moment occurred at a recent basement show with fans enthusiastically wanting to be locked in an on-stage dog cage for the entire set.
“We also had mud wrestling at a show one time,” Williams remembered.
Purdue band alumni in 2024?
With Rinker living in Chicago and starting her career as a business development representative for Capstone Logistics, Please Her will play most of its gigs this fall around Purdue and in the Windy City. Although, a Nashville, Tennessee, show is on the books for Oct. 6. The band is already filling up another Excel spreadsheet to keep the shows organized (so very Purdue). Other goals include recording a full-length album, playing a festival and a 2024 tour to Dallas, Schultz’s hometown.
There are too many shows, too many goals, to think about what will happen to Please Her after May 2024 graduation rolls around. Whatever occurs, the young musicians can hang their hats on the fact that they were a vital part of an unprecedented wave of bands to hit West Lafayette.
“It was a hobby I didn’t know I needed,” said Rinker via Zoom. “I want to keep it in my life. It adds value and I don’t think it’s going to stop.”
Schultz concurred, “In Please Her’s name, amen.”
Tim Brouk is a longtime arts and entertainment reporter in Greater Lafayette. On most Thursdays, he assembles Tim’s Picks, tracking things to do for Based in Lafayette
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