Youth Group

Idaho band The Ongoing Concept is called up to the major leagues

Kristen Black

This was such a horrible idea.

It happened when the packed crowd of sweaty young teenagers in beanies and backward caps and colored Vans started chanting for another song at the end of The Ongoing Concept’s set last weekend. After what would become the band’s next-to-last song, the crowd defiantly stood their ground, chanting “One more song!”

The guys onstage — a screamy hardcore outfit who recently caught the region by surprise with their announcement they had been signed to major label Solid State Records — were expecting this. They cue up a sample of a groaning organ, and the kids in the audience instantly recognize the song. The room starts to move.

As the noise builds, the band’s main screamer, 20-year-old Kyle Scholz, tromps through the crowd, hops up to grab the bottom of the balcony with his fingers and pulls himself up until he’s standing with his back against the railing — a good 20 feet up in the air. As he turns to face the crowd, the music building, the energy swelling, the kids stare up at him — all wide eyes and orthodontic smiles — and prepare to catch him. Kyle shakes his head and gestures for them to clear the floor. The crowd crams against the walls.

And then the music breaks.

That’s when Kyle jumps.

You could say that The Ongoing Concept is at the very center of the Scholtz family. It’s what all three of the Scholtz kids — Kyle, 16-year-old Parker and Dawson, 21 — devote their free time to. It’s the thing that brings the Scholtz boys closer together with their parents, Dan and Crystal, who built a practice space and recording area above their garage for the boys, helped outfit the band’s 15-passenger touring van with bunk beds and their trailer with enough power for the kids to bring a game system and microwave on the road. Sometimes their parents stand at the back of the crowd at shows, watching this thing their kids have built.

“We always [played] thinking that two years, three years down the road, if nothing had happened, we would kind of say [we’d call it] quits,” Dawson says, sipping coffee at the dining room table of the Rathdrum, Idaho, family home. “We kind of thought it would be more of a hobby that would just kind of die when we got older. … The fact that this is actually, possibly going to be our career is kind of weird, and we never thought it would happen.”

Over the past three years, they just kept at it. Where so many bands just play a few shows here and there, the Scholtz boys and their friend T.J. Nichols — whose family lives across the road — decided to treat this band like a job.

These kids from the middle of the Idaho panhandle had somehow acquired an old-school punk ethic: saving every penny they got from their shows, teaching themselves to record their own music, shooting their own videos and hounding the record labels they loved to take notice. The band even created a mobile stage setup they could assemble in 10 minutes, and played to the ticket line at four different Warped Tour dates.

“I just knew I wanted to do this for my career. I’ve always wanted to do it,” Dawson says. “There’s a certain time when it’s not supposed to be fun, in a way. It’s supposed to be a job. And I just always looked at it as a job.”

Slowly, the band’s sound became their own: brash hardcore mixed with emo vocals, guitars overlaid with banjos, organs blended with frenetic electronic samples. Kyle started doing backflips onstage as he sang. At one show, Dawson dislocated his shoulder while thrashing about with his guitar … four different times.

“We try to go as crazy as possible,” Dawson says. “We just want people to go home and be like, ‘That was the most sickest show ever!’ and remember it for a long time.”

Somehow — they’re still not sure how — they got a call one day from an A&R rep with Solid State Records, a subsidiary imprint of Christian label Tooth & Nail Records. And within a few months, The Ongoing Concept announced they’d be in the company of bands they’d long idolized: Underoath, August Burns Red and the Chariot. Their new album, Saloon, comes out in a few weeks.

Though Dawson says he wouldn’t consider The Ongoing Concept a Christian band (despite the members identifying as Christian), he says their ideas fall in line with those of their new labelmates.

“I just feel like there’s a dark kind of vibe you get to this kind of music,” he says. “Everyone’s angry at whatever. I just feel like we try to bring a positive influence or atmosphere, try to be fun and make people excited for music in general.”

And sometimes getting people excited means playing every single show like it might be their last.

Kyle hits the ground like he’s done this a million times before: tucking into a ball and rolling to his feet again, then running to the stage to grab the microphone.

The kids love it, smiling and singing and screaming along with the band. In front, a skinny kid in a baggy shirt and bright blue, skintight jeans is yelling along, shaking his moptop of hair, then suddenly ripping his own shirt from the neckline down. Fans are kicking their legs and punching the air.

After the show is really done, a line of kids slowly files out of the venue. They look starstruck.

A boy in a beanie looks at the girl he’s walking out with and shakes his head. “Those guys are crazy!”

She raises an eyebrow and smiles at him.

“They’re always crazy.” 

Thursday Night Live (TNL) @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Third Thursday of every month. Continues through Sept. 16
  • or

About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...