Rosa's last show at Sedition Books. Houston, TX. 2005. Photo by Petrine TX.
Before folk-punk became the self-parodying absurdist oogle shitshow it is now, it was a pretty fun thing to partake in when you were sick of whatever punk band you've seen or were playing in for the millionth time in a row. Most of the acoustic bands and musicians I remember seeing from around this time were pretty much using these folk/country projects as a way to take a break from their main bands (Chuck Ragan and Rumbleseat from Hot Water Music, Chad Price from ALL, the Saint Catherines moonlighting as Yesterday's Ring, etc.). They were continuing what groups and musicians like Billy Bragg, the (Young) Pioneers, Tattle Tale, and the World/Inferno Friendship Society laid down, eventually turning into even more nuanced and diverse subcultures with bands like Moldy Peaches, Against Me!, Mischief Brew, and This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb (bands that sound more like what you'd find if you typed in "folk punk" into YouTube now).
I don't know precisely when the subgenre started getting seriously involved with possums, Carhartt overalls, hobo gumbo, and meth, but I should have seen it coming. My estimate is that it began sometime around 2006 at Plan It X Fest when someone shit on the slide.
I talk mad mess on folk-punk now, but I'll be completely honest with you; these bands and albums from this era of folk-punk have had a more impactful effect on my adolescent-to-adult years than anything. Specifically, Against Me!'s acoustic EP, Share What Ya Got by Defiance, Ohio, and I Mississippi You by Rosa. These are the albums I listened to with headphones on at night and in bed when I was dreading the next day of school. Now, it's hard for me to imagine a time in my life when I was happier than at a Rosa show or Plan-It-X Fest, but with that said, you'll never catch me dead at a Days 'n Daze show.
Rosa was one of the fundamental bands that laid groundwork for the sound and ethos of the bikes-and-trains style of folk-punk that I (and several thousands of people) like to mock and dissociate with. I first heard them in 2003 via a message board I will leave unnamed which was a congregation of punks who made off-color jokes and pirated music with each other. I started listening to I Mississippi You and tried to figure out just exactly what was going on. It sounded like a bunch of children on a playground singing as they banged a trash can with a stick overlaid with some guitar, banjo, and fiddle. I was pretty close to being right. Rosa consisted of Emmalee playing a single snare, Brad on acoustic guitar, Kirke Campbell on washtub bass and mandolin, and Ben Wesley on banjo and fiddle. They had a philosophy of never using electricity when they played shows, which allowed them to play shows anywhere at any time like at Amy's Ice Creams or the Hazard Street Bridge. They never played on stage, either. They always played on the floor, sometimes right in the middle and surrounded by the crowd.
Most of them went to Lanier Middle School (the same middle school I went to, though they were all a bit older than I) and ALL OF THEM eventually worked at Amy's Ice Creams on Shephard and 59 at some point. When I was 17, I also started working there, though the only member left from Rosa was Kirke.
I vividly remember getting a tour of the shop on my first day and Airon, the assistant manager, took me to the production kitchen where I saw Kirke making waffle cones. I had recognized him from shows and album inserts, though I never formally met him before.
Airon flagged Kirke down and said, "This is the new guy. It's his first day."
Kirke put down his waffle cone tool and said, "Hey, I think I know you. You ordered a 7" right?"
I wasn't sure how he knew who I was, but I think it was because I was one of the few people that actually had taken photos of Rosa and actively put them up around the internet. The 7" he was referring to was the classic Texarkana Get a High-Five that Rosa had put out which contained the classic "Umm Like Yer Smile is Totally Ruling Me Right Now" that was eventually covered by Japanther (both Rosa and Japanther were labelmates on Plan-It-X Records).
By the time I met Kirke on my first day at work at Amy's, though, Rosa was long gone and everyone was doing their own thing. Kirke lived in my neighborhood and we'd hang out every once in a while for a while when he was singing and playing guitar in the power-pop band Teenage Kicks. He moved to Pittsburgh for a few years where he played in the band Crooked Teeth, and then came back to Houston where he and I played in the Edgar Allan Poseurs with John Sears. Before I left Houston, he was playing in the band Pearl Crush, in addition to working on his own solo music.
Everyone in Rosa, minus Ben, also played in the (electric) punk band Punkin' Pie during the same time Rosa was still together.
Brad played in a bunch of bands after Rosa, but the ones I remember most are Fleabag and the impossible-to-google punk band Prince.
And probably most notoriously, Brad and Kirke were very young when they played in the emo band Die, Emperor! Die!