The sweet strains of acoustic guitar and a mellow upright bass make the Stagger & Sway stand out in the local Indie music scene. These guys, led by singer songwriter Mike Last, have been quietly making their mark on the air waves and local clubs for the last couple of years. Mike once told me that he’d been playing his own songs in his living for years until finally, his friends persuaded him to put together a band and start playing shows. It wasn’t long after that conversation that I saw my first Stagger & Sway show and I’ve tried to catch them as often as possible ever since.
Mike is an accomplished drummer himself, but plays acoustic guitar and lead vocals for the Stagger and Sway. You may have seen him drum for Salt Lick, and every now and then the Last Drags. Ken Howes takes over the drums for the band and Jerry Abelin is the bass player, also offering up appealing vocal harmonies. Brian Patrick Schierenbeck, another Salt Lick member, dishes out electric guitar and sometimes lap steel guitar.
The Stagger and Sway play mostly original music written by Mike. Their performances are clearly collaborative with each member contributing to a sound that ranges from acoustic folk to country-rock and sometimes rock and roll. As good as their last CD (Break Til You Bend) is there’s no substitute for seeing them perform live. It’s obvious they are having the time of their lives and play for the love of the music. The musicianship is stellar on stage but so engaging, that I feel like I’m right there in Mike’s living room being treated to my own, personal concert.
Mike’s lyrics are about the real, everyday life of the “Working Stiff”, also his record label. My personal favorites range from “Wyoming” that has a haunting melody with a plangent harmonica fill about the state I was born in to “Shit Advice”, an anthem about the way life unwinds in a small town with the friends we once spent hours with. I’m really in love with the song they take their name from on their first CD, Time Changes. The line, “they say a good friend is hard to find, ok, oh well never mind” flows out with an easy come, easy go rhythm that leads in to “since the stagger and the sway came across the static on the phone” clearly hinting at drunken phone conversations with old pals.
I’ve recently been hitting shows in Cottage Grove at the Axe and Fiddle, a great small town venue for indie and folk groups. I begged Mike to play a show there for me and he put it together for this Friday, March 25th. To make it easier for the Eugene fans to get down to Cottage Grove and get back safely if they tip a few while the band plays, Mike chartered a bus that will be leaving from Sam Bond’s Garage on Van Buren at 7:30 PM. Contact Mike on the Stagger and Sway’s Facebook page to reserve a seat on the bus. I know, Cottage Grove is only a few minutes away, but taking the bus is bound to be its own adventure and whether you take your own vehicle or ride with us, you’ll be treated to a great show in a great venue. The cover is only $3.00, the bus ride $5.00; a fun date night on a budget. See you there.
— Lee Thompson