photos by Shannon Claire
[Editor's note: This guest column previews Son of 76's final show at The Zoo Bar on Friday starting at 9 p.m. RSVP here.]
Like most artists, the music I’ve written as Son of 76 is intimately connected to my life experience. As I’ve been running through the catalog of our three albums in preparation for our last show, I have relived many of those experiences. Doing so, I realize that now is definitely the time to close the book on this chapter of my life and music.
I’ve always wondered how some artists are able to continue playing songs they had written decades before. For me, there is a sense of urgency that is essential to a song and its ability to make an emotional connection with the listener. Unfortunately, that means the performer must embody that particular feeling every time they perform the song.
Over the last seven years, a lot of the songs that once meant the world to me have now become old ideas. They have taken on a life of their own, yes, but I would rather leave those feelings where they were born, rather than carry them into the future with me.
“Son of 76 has more in common with classic American rock acts like Warren Zevon and Springsteen… It’s Hoyer’s voice, which lies somewhere between Tom Waits, Dr. John and Elvis, that ties the styles together into something uniquely cinematic, original and thoroughly authentic.” — Tim McMahan of Lazy-i
Werner Althaus, Son of 76 guitarist, told me shortly after the birth of my daughter and my wedding day, “I guess it’s all over now. You can’t write any more. You’re happy now.” I laughed it off at the time. But in hindsight, he was absolutely right. The majority of material for Son of 76 came from a dark period in my life, full of bad love and self-destructive behavior, contrasted by the late 20s, early 30s drive to define yourself once and for all and get down to business.
The music helped me grow through that period in my life and served as a vessel to be heard over the static and chatter I was surrounded by. As of now, I have a great deal of happiness and understand better than ever what is important to me. The rebel spirit often personified by Son of 76 has not faded, but has now become more about positive change, rather than playing the victim. I am still laboring at moving people through music.
“Contemporary, vibey R&B-noir that wails, rocks, croons, shakes and howls. Funky, danceable music with fine original songs by soulful singer Joshua Hoyer galvanized by an accomplished ensemble of musicians.” — B.J. Huchtemann of The Reader.
I had once hoped that Son of 76 would gain the affections of a record label and a regional/national audience. But in the end, I realize that the music served its purpose. I made lasting connections with some of the listeners. We stumbled through hard times together. We let the “evening become the night.” It wasn’t a legion of listeners, no. But it was a pretty loyal group of 200 to 300 people that fed off the expression I found in some very dark places. As an artist, you can’t ask for much more.
That being said, our last show is going to be part reminiscing and remembering, but don’t doubt it, there’s going to be some dancing and drinking as well. Thanks to all of those folks that came to our shows and bought our albums over the last seven years. We appreciate you.
Josh Hoyer is a Hear Nebraska contributor. Tell us what Son of 76 meant to you in the comments below, and see the band for a final time at The Zoo Bar on Friday at 9 p.m. After that, Hoyer will perform under the name Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, with their first show scheduled on Dec. 28.