GVSU students showcase talent at Mulligan's Pub
The Cardboard Swords celebrates an unexpectedly large following
Tyler, the guitarist and vocalist of The Cardboard Swords performs with his band at Mulligan’s Pub in East Town on Saturday. The band is local to Grand Rapids. GVL / Hannah Mico.
In 2003, The Intersection relocated from 1520 Wealthy St. to its current location, leaving its old neighbor, Mulligan’s Pub, with a going-away gift: a vacant room that housed a stage outfitted for live performances. For the last six years, this small-scale venue — known as Mulligan’s Otherside — has been home to weekly performances ranging from indie to metal, and everything in between.
Many of the artists featured at Mulligan’s Otherside are based out of Michigan.
One such band is The Cardboard Swords, which celebrated its one-year anniversary at Mulligan’s on Feb. 22. TCS is a sad-pop trio consisting of two GVSU students, guitarist and vocalist Tyler DeCoeur, and drummer Ryan Stailey, along with Calvin College alumnus Mag Kim on bass guitar.
The sound of TCS could fall under quite a few categories, in turn making it difficult to label. It is essentially comprised of pop, midwestern emo and spoken-word. Lyrically, DeCoeur, the group’s songwriter, retells detailed stories of love and good times with friends. He often references specific landmarks in Grand Rapids such as streets and businesses that could only be appreciated by those familiar with the area.
Instrumentally, their guitar techniques are reminiscent of ‘90s alternative music, featuring keys that balance the wistful lyrics with an upbeat sound.
Beginning shortly after midnight on Saturday, TCS performed a handful of tracks from its 2014 EP Remnants, including “Nickels,” “Cardigan” and “Flannel.” Also on the set list were tracks from the self-titled three-track album from 2013, such as “A Year From Now.”
Based on the level of participation, it was evident that a large majority of the crowd was quite familiar with the music being performed.
“When all of the people rushed the stage and were singing the lyrics, it was mind blowing,” DeCoeur said. “It felt really good to feel like we made a connection with people through our music.”
Mulligan’s Otherside can potentially accommodate around 150 people, depending on how much those in attendance are willing to rub shoulders with one another. On Saturday evening, the venue was nothing less than packed — something that members of TCS did not anticipate.
“For us, that was the biggest crowd that we’ve ever drawn,” DeCoeur said. “Definitely the most people that we’ve ever packed into a room.”
According to a bar manager at Mulligan’s, the establishment had not been that busy since St. Patrick’s Day of 2013. And while concertgoers were certainly enjoying Mulligan’s drink specials, they were also indulging in another treat – cupcakes.
“We’re very grateful for the people that come to the shows and listen, so Tyler thought it would be great to make cupcakes for them,” Stailey said. “Tyler and a few friends worked together and baked over 200 cupcakes to hand out at the show. We also bought decorations and party hats. We wanted it to be a party where people who really liked our music came and listened to it.”
Also performing Saturday was passion-rock group Moses, which traveled from Mount Pleasant to celebrate with TCS. In terms of musical style, Moses can be described as indie rock with somber, and sometimes ambient, vocals. During its performance, the quartet showcased a handful of songs off of its eight-track album Gush, which was released in 2013.
According to Nate Zinzi, lead guitarist of Moses, the growing popularity of TCS can be attributed to its hard work and passion for music.
“The Cardboard Swords write all of their own material, and they really care about their music,” Zinzi said. “They’re awesome people, and they’re in it for the right reasons.”