Tuned Up Concert Preview: Public Transit, Cedars Brothers and AJ Eustace

By Ryan G

This is a sponsored post. Well, kinda. We fully back all three of the artists in this write up, but we are putting our official endorsement on their show this Thursday at Kafe Kerouac in Columbus, OH.

Who are “they”?

“They” are led by Public Transit, a quiet cinematic folk project that is the musical alter ego of Noah Dirig. Over the past year or so I’ve observed him onstage in church in various worship band roles, most often behind the drum kit. His wife can often be spotted singing onstage too. This Thursday is their debut show, and Noah has tapped ambient folktronica duo Cedars Brothers for a stripped down set and emerging songwriter AJ Eustace, also known for his work with Tuned Up Artist to Watch Sarah Cowan.

We sat down with the three artists to get to know them a bit better. Hopefully, you’ll be inclined to drive over to the beatnik hole in the wall Kafe Kerouac this Thursday, June 22nd to enjoy some organic indie sounds. The event is pay what you want and begins at 8pm (Facebook event here).

What cocktail or beverage would best pair with listening to your music?

Public Transit: I never expected to be asked this question, haha. I suppose I’d liken my music to a dry stout. Not necessarily a flavored stout, but something more traditional, like a Guinness Extra Stout. It’s sweet and chocolatey to some, but bitter to others, like black coffee. Simple yet robust. Rootsy, earthy, maybe. A no-frills type of beer that’s meant to be sipped and appreciated, not guzzled down.

Cedars Brothers: A bottle of Malbec

AJ Eustace: I’ll go with Chardonnay. It’s a good choice if you want to sit back and reflect for a bit, but it can also ramp up the intensity of your night out. Sometimes I write songs that are deep and thought-provoking, and other times I go for up-tempo rock, so I think a versatile drink goes well with that.

If money were no object, how would you amp the production of your live set?

PT: One of the things that is important to me as an indie folk artist is simplicity. I try to cultivate a sense of quietness in my music — one that makes space amid the hustle and bustle and noise of modern life. I want listeners to appreciate the small details of my compositions, but in many ways, complexity in arrangement obscures those details. So if I had unlimited resources to bulk up my live production, I would be very careful to not add more and more just for the sake of adding more. With that said, I suppose having some string ensemble elements would be fun, and could add to the beauty I’m trying to go for. Someday, I’d also like to do more rock-and-roll-type arrangements of my songs with a full band, but in a grungy, minimalist sort of way.

CB: Full on old school Pink Floyd laser and light show.

AE: My live set tends to be faster and more straightforward in its interpretation of rock than how I envision the songs being recorded. Some of this is by default. My setup is just one guitar, bass and drums, so we have to simplify things a bit. If I didn’t have to worry about money, I’d like to add a keyboardist and also make the show more visually appealing – maybe some lights and a fog machine to make it a more engaging experience.

What new music excites you right now?

PT: I’ll confess, most of the music I listen to is not “new” music. I grew up on ’90s alternative bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket and Pearl Jam, and I later fell in love with ’00s garage rock revival (Interpol, primarily). I’ve also listened to a fair bit of ’60s music, mostly the bossa nova and MPB of the late Brazilian artist Nara Leão. All that’s to say, an adoration of older music has always been a part of me. However, I will mention a projects released in the past few months that I enjoy. An excellent Japanese band called cero just released a great new LP, “e o”. Those guys continue to deliver a compelling blend of electronic jazz fusion that scratches the same itch as late ’90s Stereolab. A highlight track for me is “Fdf”. Besides that, I am also pretty impressed by moony’s recent EP, “podunk”. I love the production on that one. Hearing something so tastefully crushed to bits is just beautiful.

CB: Parcels, and Orville Peck.

I like a very niche brand of alternative rock – less emphasis on grunge-like distortion, more emphasis on melody and a cleaner guitar tone. A few of my favorites in that space are Mild-Mannered, who I’m actually doing a show with in August, and a group from Athens, OH called the Laughing Chimes.

What is the most compelling concert experience you’ve ever had and why?

PT: I’ve had the privilege of seeing the folk band The Arcadian Wild perform twice in the past year. Both times they played their “Principium” EP in its entirety, and for me, that EP is the most beautiful piece of art I’ve encountered in a long time. “Principium” is a tale about humanity — its fall and redemption — that tells its story primarily through evocative, intricate instrumentation. Seeing it played note for note, perfectly, twice, was something I don’t think I’ll forget.

CB: U2 (on) the original Joshua Tree tour, and Florence and The Machine.

With all due respect to Jack White (Madison Square Garden back in 2015), my most compelling concert experience was a show by the Vindys at Natalie’s Music Hall. The quality of the music was exceptional, and the addition of a brass section to a rock lineup reminded me of Blood, Sweat and Tears. My favorite moments were when the singer got the audience to sing along to the choruses and when she went out into the crowd during an extended solo and started giving people high-fives.

Why should the public be excited about your music right now?

PT: Life in 2023 is a complex thing. Between the constant overstimulation of advertising and new advances in technology, true quietness is something that is hard to find. A big part of the mission of Public Transit is to provide a space for quietness. It’s not meant to simply be noise in the background, but rather a place for critical listening and thinking — a place for prayerful meditation, even. Our music is intentionally simple and rough around the edges, presented with humility instead of bravado. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, I understand. But for those seeking rest from all the noise of modern life: here, you may find a place to catch your breath.

CB: We are pushing the boundaries to blend and merge genres.

My songs take an atmospheric approach to rock, and people who’ve been to my shows have described it as “new age classic rock.” I like to write lyrics that are unconventional but also bold, thought-provoking, and relatable. All in all, my style appeals to a variety of rock sensibilities while leaving ample room for creative expression.

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