Chattanooga Now Brother-led West Coast string band headlines Nightfall (May 31)

Chattanooga Now Brother-led West Coast string band headlines Nightfall (May 31)

Brothers Comatose set to wake up Friday's crowd with impromptu percussion chopsticks

May 30th, 2013 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music

The Brothers Comatose

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.


What: Nightfall concert series featuring The Brothers Comatose

When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 31; Woodford Sessions opens at 7 p.m.

Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Boulevard, Market and Cherry streets

Admission: Free

Phone: 423-265-0771

Venue website:


Woodford Sessions is an acoustic folk/roots songwriting duo consisting of local music renaissance man Dan Pinson and soft-spoken Texan transplant Michael Galloway. For more information about their music, visit

When Alex and Ben Morrison were growing up, their house was a kind of musical watering hole, the site of weekly parties and folk jam sessions hosted by their parents. Being surrounded by musicians trading tunes and breaks with one another for the sheer joy of the craft was hugely influential, imparting to the boys both technical skills and an abiding love of the art form.

The atmosphere of those evenings is something the brothers now seek to replicate as co-founders of San Francisco-based string band The Brothers Comatose.

"If that could be the feel of every single [show], that would be ideal," says guitarist/vocalist Ben Morrison. "That's what we're aiming for. Maybe [the audience will] want to learn some songs and take up an instrument themselves, start their own musical parties. It would be ideal, to inspire someone like that."

If they don't manage to sway any of their listeners to take up the musical baton, they'll settle for simply getting them off their feet, Morrison adds.

At a show shortly after the band formed in the Bay City five years ago, Morrison introduced a gimmick designed to engage the crowd. Toward the end of the gig, the band members handed out chopsticks for the audience to use as impromptu drumsticks, turning them into a giant, collective percussion section. It was so successful that it since has become a tradition, Morrison says.

Occasionally, the gesture backfires, especially if the crowd is rhythm-deficient, but usually the chopsticks are a near surefire way to get everyone on their feet and invested in the show, he says.

"I have had to expand to going to Chinatown now to get a whole bunch," Morrison explains. "I usually buy $60 or $70 worth at a time, which is a really large bag of chopsticks. People love them; they take them with them."

Friday night, May 31, The Brothers Comatose will bring their sack of chopsticks and a raucous, up-tempo brand of old-time music to Miller Plaza as this week's Nightfall headliner. The show will feature a combination of slower ballads, fiery instrumentals and mid-tempo songs, all inspired by what the band has experienced as it travels the country.

Driving hundreds of miles behind the wheel of a 25-year-old passenger van to deliver music and chopsticks to audiences might not seem like the height of glamour, but it's the kind of richly inspirational lifestyle Morrison says he's longed for since childhood.

"It's been really nice to just expand further and further," he says. "Now, we're traveling far and wide. We're all over the country. It's been incredible."

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.