The following is an opinion piece expressed by the editor of I Heart Local Music.
The time has finally come to say goodbye to Cowboy Indian Bear. The farewell doesn’t come without a heavy heart. How do you say adieu to a band so influential in the Lawrence music community?
Watching CJ Calhoun, Marty Hillard, Katlyn Conroy, and Beau Bruns single-handedly transform the attitude in the scene may have been the biggest gift the (mostly) Topeka transplants brought to Lawrence. At a time when the scene was hostile, frigid, and cliquey, Cowboy Indian Bear put on their best manners and welcomed everyone with open arms. Often times at shows early in their careers, they greeted every single patron who walked through their door.
That attitude was infectious, and you can bet it spread across the Lawrence music scene.
One by one, we saw more bands associated with this act change their behavior. This allowed more music fans to feel at ease, and actually feel drawn to live shows. Once audiences felt a welcoming atmosphere at Cowboy Indian Bear’s shows, they eventually shared the sentiment with other bands.
So when Cowboy Indian Bear suffered through trials and tribulations, such as a series of van troubles and opening for legendary acts while suffering from a high fever, they usually came out on top because they had a supportive fan base to fall back on.
At their Lawrence Arts Center performance (one of their best sets to date), they led by example by putting a brand new band on the lineup. The new generation, this new crop of musicians, were in good hands thanks to Cowboy Indian Bear taking them under their wing.
Now, after years of leaving stunning impressions at local music festivals and even larger stages across the country, it’s time to call it a night. On Thursday, the band officially announced that they were bringing this project to a close.
However, there is a bright spot amongst this melancholy. Calhoun is kicking off a new project called Bonzo Madrid. Hillard is still rolling hard with Ebony Tusks, a dramatic and poetry-rich project creating a stir and attaining a bigger draw with every show. Conroy, one of the busiest bees in the scene, has finally found the formula that makes La Guerre work. Her impressive and endless talent have been fine-tuned enough to get everyone’s attention now. Daniel Bowersox, a late addition to the band, just wrapped up an EP with Spirit is the Spirit (another well-loved band from the area).
Cowboy Indian Bear won’t leave you empty-handed, however. They’re sending everyone home with one final goodie bag, a free download of an unreleased song called “I’ve Got A Home.” You may have heard the song (originally intended for a 7″ split with Hospital Ships) at their live shows a couple of times.
We’ve seen a lot of hard work and tears come out of this band, and watched Conroy’s hair change to just about every color imaginable. So enjoy the download, look forward to more musical projects from Cowboy Indian Bear’s members, and know that they’ve always got a home here in good old LFK.
Words and photos by Fally Afani
Bonus: Here are a couple of special little music videos we made for Cowboy Indian Bear once after one of their Middle of the Map Festival performances: