Dear Fort Collins,
There are very few bands for whom I would sell my firstborn child for a chance to see live. I love seeing my favorite musicians play, but ultimately if I can’t make it, well, I can always just grab my iPod and rock out at home. But for Two Cow Garage, I’m getting Rumpelstiltskin on speed dial.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Two Cow Garage isn’t a local band, but they might as well be. This punk rock/alt-country band released their last two albums, Speaking In Cursive and Sweet Saint Me through Denver label Suburban Home Records (although there was some sort of kerfuffle recently and the two appear to have parted ways), and they always make an effort to swing up north to Fort Collins on their way through Colorado.
Lead singer/guitarist Micah Schnabel and bassist Shane Sweeny are the heart and soul of this band, often backed by Cory Smith on drums and Andy Schell on keyboards. Micah and Shane have both released solo albums over the last few years, and they’re both amazing (check out this video of Micah singing “American Static” if you don’t believe me). Micah’s I’m Dead, Serious has playing on my car stereo pretty much nonstop since last December. But when you get the full band together, in a small, hot bar with sweat and beer flying and screaming so loud you might break something…holy Two Cow.
It’s hard to put into words exactly what makes Two Cow Garage so great, which is ironic since their lyrics are some of the best examples of pure songwriting I’ve ever heard. These songs sound heartbreakingly honest, and that’s because they are. “No Shame” isn’t a song about that amorphous feeling of being lost and directionless, it’s about that exact moment when Micah was lying in bed, with The Outsiders playing on a television set on top of his amp, a guitar against the wall, surrounded by notebooks filled with unfinished songs and “a job application getting harder to ignore.” To borrow a phrase from Chuck Klosterman, this song is so specific that its words shouldn’t make sense to anybody else – but they do. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had that exact moment that Micah is writing about, even if it didn’t happened in a completely different way.
Two Cow Garage has been around in one form or another since 2001, and they’re still one of the hardest working, constantly touring bands around. They have to be – Two Cow is neither rich nor famous (although they should be), and they have to work and scrape for every cent to fill the gas tank on the van that will take them to their next show. These guys are the true definition of “road warriors.” In “Jackson, Don’t You Worry,” a song Micah wrote to Shane’s newborn son, he borrows from Springsteen to explain to him, “you’re a good man’s son / see, your daddy and me, we were born to run.” They can’t stop playing music, but they’re also not immune to the emotional drain and exhaustion that constant touring brings. Although Micah laments, “Damn, you should have seen us back when we were young,” he also admits that “the questions are many, but the answers are few.” The road takes its toll.
That being said, the energy with which they perform every single set is, in a word, mind-boggling. Micah is absolutely electrifying on stage, squirming, shaking, twitching, and ripping the songs out of his chest like they’re literally a part of him. Shane is just as committed to every song, but slightly more grounded, holding the bass line like a champ. See this video of “Skinny Legged Girl”? Imagine that for an entire show. Whoa.
The first time I heard Two Cow, I was chatting with a friend in Surfside 7 and wasn’t paying attention to the band setting up by the window. But as soon as the first verse of “Should’ve California” broke through the chatter of the bar, I was hooked. By the end of the song I was singing along to every song, even the ones I didn’t know yet. That’s just what Two Cow Garage does.
Fortunately for all the believers in the Gospel of Two Cow Garage and all you heathens who haven’t seen the light yet, Two Cow will be playing one of their unforgettable live sets with The Copyrights at Surfside 7 this Tuesday, November 13 at 10pm. Tickets are only $6, but please buy some merch from the band to help support them. As a bonus, Shane will be playing a free solo show earlier in the night at Hodi’s Half Note, 8pm.
I don’t play the hipster game of “You’ve never heard of this band but they’re better than anything else you’re listening to” often, but for Two Cow Garage, I will. That’s how much I love them.
Late Night Fort Collins