Koa may hail from Nashville, Tennessee — the country music capital of the world — but the seven-piece band is more interested in groove than twang. Founded by childhood friends and songwriting duo Chase Bader and Conor Kelly, the group mashes soul, rock & roll and funk into an eclectic, danceable sound, focusing on songs that aim for the heart, head… and feet.
Since playing their first show in a Nashville yogurt shop, the guys have built their audience the old-school way: by piling into a van and hitting the road, relying on live performances — rather than a big-budget marketing campaign or a major record label — to turn the most heads. Along the way, they’ve performed with the Wailers, appeared at popular festivals like Wakarusa and Summer Camp, and earned an audience that’s as diverse and genuine as the band’s own music.
Koa’s history dates back to the early 2000s, when front man Bader and lead guitarist Kelly attended the same grade school in Colorado. The two became fast friends. When college came, they both found themselves leaving Denver and headed toward Nashville. There, they pieced together a band of open-minded musicians, all of whom brought their own tastes and influences to the table. Bader was a fan of songwriters like Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson and the Beatles. Kelly preferred classic rock bands like the Allman Brothers. Sax player Alex Mathews listened to jazz, bassist Ryan Ladd loved King Crimson, and drummer Will Youngclaus focused on funk. The band grew from there, with percussionist Ryan McClanahan joining the ranks to help deepen the music’s rhythmic focus. Together, the band stirred all of those influences into the same pot, mixing up something new in the process.
These days, with a sound that continues to evolve and a full-length album on the horizon, you’re mostly likely to find Koa in the same place that gave the band its start: the road. The guys have become road warriors, playing shows across the United States while working their way toward something bigger, better, bolder. For Koa, the only direction is forward.
- When: Saturday, July 30th
- Time: 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
- Location: Belmont Abbey College Island
- Cost: Free and open to the public
- Weather: This event will proceed rain or shine