Rushmore Academy makes Topeka frequent stop

Melissa Treolo

The date was December of 2003. The place was The Creepy Crawl, a bar and all ages music venue in St. Louis. The response to Rushmore Academy’s first set in their hometown?

“They threw lit cigarettes and bottles at us if that tells you anything,” said Matt Effinger, drummer.

Rushmore Academy is now a band that is beloved by St. Louis and its music venues, including The Creepy Crawl where they’ve had many more successful shows. Clearly, though, they didn’t always have it so good. The band blames that near-injurious first show on a hardcore audience’s avid dislike of their more pop-punk sound. But, while the incident isn’t one of their fondest memories, they credit the bar with being a good place to play anyway.

“Yeah, that band’s fans didn’t like us too much,” said Steve Neske, lead singer. “But we sort of love it [at The Creepy Crawl], it has its charm. I saw my first local show there when I was a freshman in high school and we’ve played there so many times, so we’ve sort of grown up with the place.”

The five members that make up Rushmore Academy, Effinger, Neske, Guitarist Steve (Rocky) Fee, Bassist Jason Kramer and Keyboardist Craig Jenkins, often find themselves feeling attached to a place and that’s why they are regular performers at Topeka’s own Boobie Trap Bar. The band is a touring one, with shows scheduled around the Midwest about every weekend, and The Boobie Trap was one of their first out of town venues. They enjoyed playing it enough to return again and again and, with many in this area holding firmly to the belief that the best thing about the city of Topeka is leaving it, it’s rather refreshing to find a band who not only travels here several times a year, but who is also enthusiastic about the prospect.

“It’s an exciting market and we have fun here,” said Effinger. “A lot of kids come out and it’s kind of like home.”

The “kids that come out” are mostly comprised of the crowd of friends the band has made here who religiously attend every show. Most of these fan-friends are active participants in the music, who dance and sing along to songs while maneuvering their way through the crowd with snap-shot cameras or phones for the best possible photo op. While this spirited response is largely based on loyalty to the band, there also seems to be a healthy amount of respect for what they are doing musically.

“I’ve seen them play for a couple of years and every time they always improve,” said Colby Sharples, a regular patron at The Boobie Trap. “Every time they play it’s something different and no matter how many people are here, 100 or four, they always put on a good show.”

Rushmore Academy also puts on a relatively theatrical one, with Neske often making jokes in between songs and Jenkins hurling himself against the wall while he pounds out keys on the keyboard. This energetic and distinct stage presence, in combination with music that is confident and mainstream, has garnered the band bookings with the likes of Rise Against, Zebrahead and Bowling For Soup.

The excitement of a band’s first flush of success is palpable when talking to these musicians from St. Louis. Not only do they have a concert schedule that would make any band envious but their first EP, titled “If the Cigarette Smoke Doesn’t Kill You, the Hairspray Will,” was released in May of 2005 and sold out last month. They will be re-releasing copies in the near future.

There is a bottom line to all of this, however. It seems that, in the end, the most important priority for Rushmore Academy is just to keep it real.

“What’s cool is that we know a lot of our fans on a personal basis,” said Neske. “It’s nicer to have people like that, who are just true fans of our band. Everything’s kept on a more personal level too and people don’t think we’re some big ‘rock star band.’ It’s a nice feeling and we want that everywhere.”

Rushmore Academy will be returning to The Boobie Trap stage Thursday, Feb. 9. For inquiries on when and where to purchase their EP, e-mail Neske at [email protected]