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BOOM FOREST

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WhAT'S THAT sound? 

Boom Forest is the spiritual incarnation of John Paul Roney, a Nashville-based songwriter and an evangelist for a contemporary folk tradition forwarding humanism in the face of our looming techno-apocalypse. Begin with the acoustic introspection of Bob Dylan, add artful electronic production cues a la Kid A, and layer in multi-part harmonies that would be at home in a Southern Baptist choir, and you’re on your way into the sound Boom Forest makes from the automated woods of Tomorrow. 

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These days, these days are hard

Digging up plants for the yard

Finding your face in the cards

At its absolute best, live music plays a unique role in modern society. In a world of shrinking sacred spaces, concerts are one of the last places where groups of strangers can gather and experience, together, something transcendental, something other and beyond. In the spirit of this idea, I present to you Boom Forest. 

These days, we're kicking the tires

Smokin' outside by the fire

You hold my depth of desire

I’m not gonna spend a lot of time giving you backstory on Boom Forest. Basically, Boom Forest is John Paul Roney. It’s a concept. It’s the mouth John Paul chooses to use to voice all our fears and anxieties and frustrations. And his too, probably. He has a few albums out — Boom Forest, Post Knight Errant, and his most recent releaseWisconsin. They’re good. You should listen to them. But this isn’t about that. This is about two and a half minutes where time stopped. 

Cause I'm from the wrong side of the tracks

Where the streets without streetlights are black

Where all night, trains they will roar

Like no lion that you've heard before

October, 2013. Manhattan. The Map Room. The Bowery Electric. The Outlaw Roadshow. The room is small, much smaller than the main venue downstairs. Seating for maybe a dozen. Maybe forty people can fit if they all hold their breath. Boom Forest is blowing through an amazing set. The room, sparse at the beginning of the set, has gradually filled up. People are standing at the back door, spilling out into the main floor bar, trying to peak inside to get a view of what is making the beautiful sounds coming from inside. At some point, John Paul puts down his guitar and steps up to the mic. A member of Foreign Fields, playing in his backing band, steps up to the mic. Two members of fellow Bariboo band Phox come up on stage from the audience. They surround the mic. The single microphone. They didn’t need it. 

Yes in these days, you’re nothing but blame

You’re selling yourself with your name

A last glimpse of fortune and fame

I hadn’t heard of Boom Forest before that night. I didn’t know any of his songs, but that hadn’t kept me from enjoying the set. Maybe it even enhanced it. The four humans on stage look at each other and then, unaccompanied, launched into the first line of “No Lion,” in impeccable four part harmony.  These days, these days are hard...

Oh yeah in these days, you think that it's me that you want

I'm just everything that you're not

But you can still live in my heart

There’s no way it was as quiet in that room as it is in my memory of that two and a half minutes. It couldn’t have been. It’s a bar, for God’s sake. There were people out there sitting on stools, not listening to the music, carrying on conversations, living their lives. But in that room, there was an envelope of quiet that encompassed us all. I, along with several dozen others, was sitting cross-legged on the floor. Katie was on my left. Adam was next to her. I could feel us all being pulled forward somehow, into the music. 

Cause I'm from the wrong side of the tracks

Where the streets without streetlights are black

Where all night, trains they will roar

Like no lion that you've heard before

At some point, I managed to break out of the trance. I’ve never been sure why, until I started writing this. I needed to take it all in. I needed to bear witness. Because whatever spell was being cast in that room, it had captured us all. Katie. Adam. All of us, leaning forward into the music. Nobody blinked. I’m not sure anyone was breathing. Some people had eyes that were a little more wet than usual. 

Yes, and you're from the right side of the tracks

Where I love and you don't love me back

Where all night, you hear me roar

Like no lion that you've heard before

Like no lion that you've heard before

Like no lion that you've ever heard around here before

And then it was over. The silence afterward was over long. I remember that. It was as if, collectively, we didn’t know whether to applaud or weep. But eventually we all exhaled, the applause started, the night moved on. 

At its absolute best, live music plays a unique role in modern society. In a world of shrinking sacred spaces, concerts are one of the last places where groups of strangers can gather and experience, together, something transcendental, something other and beyond. In the spirit of this idea, I present to you Boom Forest. 

No, that wasn’t a mistaken copy and paste. 

That was an invitation. 

Boom Forest is currently on tour, opening for Counting Crows and Live around the country all summer long. 

This October, they’ll be on stage again at the Bowery Electric for The Underwater Sunshine Fest. Downstairs, this time. In the big room.

See ya there.

Boom's Web Forest 
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nd the Spotify