The stage lights of Beer:30 were lit yet again when Ha Ha Tonka came to entertain about 200 people last Saturday night, finishing up their 2010 tour in a city that they feel always gives them a warm welcome. Antennas Up from Kansas City, Mo. was the opener band.
“It’s a great college town with a really rowdy crowd and it’s just a great place to play,” said Brian Roberts, vocals and guitar for the band. “We’ve been coming to Emporia for close to four years now and we always look forward to that stop on tour.”
Their first album, “Buckle in the Bible Belt,” was released in 2007 and their second album, “Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South,” was released in 2009. And, according to the band, they sound like, “indie rock meets ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
“I thought it was really good,” said Lainie Harber, senior communication major. “I like their music, I think it’s really fun, but what I really enjoy is the crowd they bring in. People are so excited to see them and they bring a really neat atmosphere.”
They also plan to release a third album in the spring of 2011 titled, “Death of a Decade.” The band plans to return to Emporia in April when they go on tour for that album.
“The end of the decade is an obvious reference point to the first point in our lives that we felt that passage of time,” Roberts said. “It’s not a funeral procession for the last years, it’s more like that morbidly optimistic praise that the passage of time is better than the alternative, we’re peaking around the corner to see what’s coming next.”
The band consists of Brett Anderson on keyboard and guitar, Lennon Bone on drums, Lucas Long on bass and Brian Roberts on guitar. While Roberts sings most of the songs, all of the other members also pitch in vocals.
“They’re our biggest crowd pulling band, as far as straight entertainment music,” said Josh Olsen, owner of Beer:30. “We keep having them back just to bring something to Emporia. For a three dollar cover, you can see a nationally touring, signed band.”
Ha Ha Tonka was signed by Bloodshot Records in 2007 and they are very proud of their Ozarkian heritage, a very important influence in their music. In fact, they take their name from a state park in the area.
“We’ve always tried to sing about what we know and where we’re from so there are a lot of Ozarkian trends in both the music and the lyrics,” Roberts said. “I think if there’s any prevailing theme throughout our music, it would be that we are a band from the Ozarks.”
The band has been together for around five years so they are no strangers to Emporia, having played here several times. And according to Roberts, Emporia is one of their favorite places to play.