Vocalist and child development senior Cody Mello shoved a hand into his pocket, scrounging for a moment, and grabbing a sealed bag containing ear plugs that looked orange under the swirling lights of Frog and Peach Pub.
He tore open the packaging with his teeth like it was routine, popped the earplugs in and squeezed into the spot that had been left for him on stage.
The band, Hightides, was in a rush to get started. They were the third act in the Lost State Records Showcase on Wednesday night, and with every minute that it took to set up, more pleasantly buzzed patrons would shuffle out the door.
The bass and guitars — painted in diner-chic blues and whites — sparked to life, and the band took off with a sharp early 2000s pop-punk sound.
The dance floor swelled quickly with a mish-mash of people bouncing near the front, as others across the room nodded and nursed their drinks.
Mello quickly abandoned his tight spot on stage and moved into the crowd where he had more room to move. But the general intimacy of it was something that all of the bands brought into their set.
Earlier, Bearcats drummer and journalism senior Lexi McCoy had laughed behind her glass while she asked the audience: “Hey, so, have any of you ever had sex with an ex?”
There was laughter — and a few shy chirps of affirmation from the audience — before the Bearcats launched into a gritty, garage-pop song, declaring: “Feels so good, it must be right for me,” with every chorus.
All of the bands had been brought together for the night by Lost State Records owner Trey Hanawalt. Originally from Atascadero, Hanawalt plays and produces music. He currently plays for Blissed Out, which would be the finale of the showcase.
The band roster, including Hayley and the Crushers, Bearcats, Hightides, Shoot the Mariner and Blissed Out, was the biggest concert that Hanawalt had put together. It was stressful, but nothing that couldn’t be handled, he said.
Hanawalt’s band had only been together for about six months, though most of the members were together in another band, Harvey Dent, for a few years before that.
“We still play like half of the songs we used to play as an old band,” Hanawalt said. “We just re-hashed them.”
Lost State Records was an out-of-the-blue project for Hanawalt. He had seen friends start their own record labels and decided that he wanted to do something similar.
“I was just like: ‘I want to do that,’” he said. “And they were like: ‘OK. Yeah. Just find bands and put out their stuff.’”
So he started approaching bands both in person and online, and soon found himself getting messages from a motley of bands that he had never seen. Hanawalt decided that he would take a chance on them as long as he liked the music, and now he has a spread of mostly punk and hardcore music with a little metal poking in from the fringes.
“I have a lot of emo bands on my record label, too,” he said. “Like Taking Back Sunday — not like shitty newer emo bands, but like Modest Mouse or Mineral.”
And he’s used his own money for all of it.
“I’ve wracked myself into like a grand or two in debt putting out albums,” Hanawalt said. “Because I don’t want to ask for money from people on like GoFundMe or something.”
But he’s been frugal about the process. Most of the bands are produced on cassette tapes, with a few being put out on vinyl.
It works out for everyone involved. The albums are inexpensive and easy to put on cassette, and anybody who doesn’t already have a cassette player can buy one cheaply from a thrift store, according to Hanawalt.
“Most kids come to shows, and they don’t have a lot of money,” he said. “They have a couple bucks … And the most expensive tape I have is $5.”
After their set, Hightides members packed their own equipment into a trailer. A few were smoking and looking forward to the next band. It was Shoot The Mariner.
Hightides also does their own production to save time and money. They’re in the middle of writing a record set to come out in May.
Matthew Wirt explained that although most of their music has a strong pop-punk feel — a “mix of Jesus and Fergie,” if you ask Mello — that the process is pretty flexible.
“I don’t think we’ve ever really sat down and said, ‘This is what we want to be,’” he said. “Like, this is the music that we want to write in this specific moment.”
“We just start writing and if it grows into something, or if it doesn’t —” Mello shrugged.
Wirt added: “It just kind of turns into whatever it does and that inspires more songs.”