The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

Young, local musicians with a passion: An exclusive interview with Black River Band

Samuel Baudek (left) and Sam Boomsma (right) play “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd during Saturday’s show. Photo by Ann David.

Black River Band is an up-and-coming band based out of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Made up of five students from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical College, Black River Band is quickly becoming popular among students and music lovers alike. 

Its members include Sam Boomsma, Tara Metzke, Kaden Swanson, Matthew Hillstrom and Samuel Baudek. The Racquet Press sat down with all the members of the band, excluding Metzke, as she is currently studying abroad. The band mentioned how much Metzke has done for the band in its beginning stages, as well as how much they miss her presence, both onstage and off.  

Boomsma and Metzke, both third-year students at UWL, were technically the first band members back when they played music and sang around campfires for fun. The two opened for country artist Josh Meloy at Cavalier Theater and Lounge in La Crosse.

Even though they had only six hours’ notice, Boomsma counted themselves lucky to open for Meloy. “It went as well as you could imagine. It was good, but it was terrible; it was really fun!” said Boomsma.  

From there, the two just wanted to keep the fun going. Boomsma met Swanson, a first-year student at Western Technical College, at a party in Boomsma’s backyard–eventually, they found out Swanson played guitar. Next, the band needed a drummer. Hillstrom, a third-year student at UWL, heard about the band through a mutual friend and joined. Hillstrom brought up joining the band to Baudek, a second-year student at UWL, who then joined as well.  

Each member brings a different level of musical experience. Swanson began playing guitar about a year ago and singing about four months ago; Hillstrom had played in jazz bands throughout high school and middle school; Boomsma has been playing guitar for four years and started singing four months ago; Baudek had been performing with a band with his cousins until joining Black River Band.

Baudek reflected on his experience performing with his older cousins and said Black River Band was the perfect change of pace. “I was looking for a new outlet to play some music, and this was just checking all the boxes. It was everything I wanted–fun music to play with fun people,” he said.

The band performed to a sold-out crowd on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Cavalier Theater and Lounge in downtown La Crosse. Boomsma, acting as band manager this semester while Metzke has been abroad, said he was thankful to The Cavalier for the chance to play there again. 

When asked about the music genres Black River Band performs, Boomsma simply answered, “We play everything.” 

Saturday night’s set list included “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” by Toby Keith, “Something in the Orange” by Zach Bryan, and “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.  

“Everybody kind of brings their own music tastes into it. All the country stuff, that’s me,” said Swanson.

Hillstrom spoke about finding common ground and bringing ideas together among all five members. “I didn’t listen to country before this but now that I’m in the band, I’m excited to play and listen to country,” he said.

Since every member brings something different, Black River Band is just that–different. Baudek explained how his and Hillstrom’s experience playing jazz together adds to the music.  

“I can feel [rhythmic and melodic aspects from jazz] being juxtaposed into the country music we’re playing. I like those little moments when we’re reaching a little bit further than what the genre usually entails. I kind of feel that gives us a little bit of an edge,” said Baudek.  

All five members of Black River Band balance being full-time students, holding separate jobs and finding the time to practice. “If I’m not doing school, I’m pretty much just practicing. There’s a lot less downtime,” said Boomsma.  

“I think with the little time we have; we’ve made a lot of good music out of it. It is hard to balance though,” said Hillstrom.  

Yet, the group’s passion for performing makes all the long nights and practice sessions worth it. When asked how he feels performing on stage, Boomsma said, “Pure adrenaline. I don’t really know how to describe…when you play something and everyone’s cheering.” 

As for the other members, Swanson said he likes the audience’s flashlights during a slower song; Baudek said his favorite part is hearing the audience sing along.  

Black River Band’s name went through a couple of stages before its final product; Swanson mentioned the first time they played at Cavalier, their names were listed instead of a band name.  

“Kaden (Swanson) brought up a good point where it would be nice if [the band name] was local. I was talking to a local here and I asked if he had any good band names, and right off the dome he says, ‘Black River Band’,” said Hillstrom.  

As for the future of Black River Band, the group just wants to keep performing.   

“The more I play, the more I really want to keep playing with this group. One goal for us is to get our name bigger around here so that by summertime we can have…more presence going into the next school year,” said Baudek.  

Black River Band’s next show is Friday, April 12 at Alpine Inn. For more information, stay up-to-date by following their Instagram: @blackriverbandlax 

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About the Contributor
Ann David
Ann David, Multimedia Editor
  • Year at UWL: Junior
  • PGPs: She/Her/Hers
  • Hometown: Eau Claire, WI
  • Major: English: Medical Professions Emphasis
  • Minor: Biology; Music Performance
  • Other Campus Involvement: UWL Wind Ensemble and Orchestra Member
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Attending grad school in Minnesota
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Walking through the Rotary Lights at Riverside Park in the winter with friends.
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