w/ Leslie Stevens
nobrow coffee & tea
Regardless of political affiliation or personal ideology, I think most people can agree on one thing: War sucks. War ultimately leads to the deaths of good, honest people, and the loss of those people often has a profound effect on those who love them. As I was walking into nobrow coffee & tea, the night's main act, Kristy Kruger, was applying the final touches to a makeshift altar constructed on a table for her deceased brother, Lt. Col. Eric John Kruger. Kristy has been traveling across the United States for the past four months, performing concerts to celebrate her brother's memory and to raise money for the four children and wife he left behind. Though Utah was only the 8th stop of the tour, Kristy Kruger plans on hitting all 50 states so she will be able to see the country that her brother loved so much.
Leslie Stevens, frontwoman of Leslie and the Badgers, opened the show with her brand of sweet Americana and folk. She peppered her set with tales of her adventures on the road with Kruger, recalling faux-interviews conducted with unknowing subjects at truck stops. The most memorable episode described by Stevens was when she and Kruger asked an unknowing local where they could find a unitard shop only to be directed to one right down the street. Kristy Kruger joined in on banjo for a couple of songs in the middle of Stevens' set, nicely complementing Steven's acoustic guitar and soft voice. Stevens made sure to offset the somber atmosphere created by the memory Lt. Col. Kruger with plenty of humor, and her sweet songwriting style on songs like "My Tears Are Wasted On You" and "Old Timers" opened the night on a relaxing note that Kruger would uphold with her set.
Before Kristy Kruger struck a single note, she explained to the crowd once again why she thought it was important to travel around the country in remembrance of her brother as she held back her tears. It's clear that Kruger isn't embarking on this tour to espouse any sort of partisan ideology, but rather to celebrate her brother's life. Kruger employed the use of an old-timey mic for a few songs during her set, including the stellar "Pollyanna," invoking images of lazy summer afternoons spent on a back-porch listening to an old AM radio. Between songs, Kruger told stories about her brother and established a connection between her life and her family with those in attendance. Still, the mood was kept light, as Kristy told the audience that she had to hurry her set up so the guy who let her borrow the P.A. wouldn't miss that night's episode of "Lost." Leslie Stevens stood leaned against a counter for the set, occasionally chiming in to tell Kristy what songs to play, and even provided Kruger with the ever important "back-up kazoo," and Kristy had lost hers at some point. Kruger's performance of "Gold Rush" was nothing short of awesome, as the emotion in her voice was channeled directly from the chorus into the harmonica around her neck as she furiously strummed her guitar and got more than a few toes tappin' from the largely buttoned-up crowd.
At the night's end, Kruger passed around a donation jar for her brother's four children, and nearly everyone in the room chipped in, even if it was just a little. Kristy Kruger said that she didn't know what to do with her life after her brother was killed in Iraq last November, but this tour has given her a new sense of meaning. The emotion in her songs spills over in everything she does, and it was clear that night that she has a great love for everything she is doing. The celebration of Lt. Col. Eric Kruger's life through music transformed a tragic event into something that seemed therapeutic for Kruger and unifying for the audience. The death of Kristy Kruger’s brother could have derailed her music career for the rest of her life, but she has instead transformed the loss of a life to a celebration of life, and everyone who hears her music will be glad she has.
Donations can be sent to:
The Memorial Fund for Children of LTC Eric Kruger
6460 Crystal Mountain Rd.
Colorado Springs, CO 80923
Half of the proceeds of the tour are going to the memorial fund.