College Calling: The Districts' guitarist Mark Larson to bow out after XPoNential - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

One of the first things that newcomers to Lititz / Philly rockers The Districts mention is their age. They’re young. They’re “just out of high school.” And it’s true: just about a year ago, the bandmates were at a serious life crossroads – start the higher education thing in the fall, or defer enrollment to do a full-on push for their music, which had serious momentum behind it.

We all know where that story went. The band decided to be a band, tour hard nationally and make a splash overseas – check out their spotlight from The Guardian in the UK – get signed to Fat Possum Records, tour some more, do a sweet Shaking Through session, play a revved-up NonCOMM set, and hit the summer festival circuit while prepping their debut full-length in the background. (Oh, and get their van stolen too, ugh.)

Twelve months later, the band is at another crossroads, and announced via Facebook early this morning that guitarist Mark Larson will be leaving the band after their set next week at the XPoNential Music Festival.

It is with heavy hearts but high hopes that we announce our good friend Mark will be leaving us to pursue his college education in the fall. While we’re bummed to not be playing with him any longer, we’re excited to see what the future holds for both him and us. … We wish ya the best Mark, and thank you mucho, mucho for helping us get this far. We couldn’t have done the past five years without you. Good luck to you on the next chapter dawgy.

Larson’s shoes will be filled in by Pat Cassidy of the jangle-pop four-piece Keepers, and while Larson’s guitarmonies and sweet solos will be missed (seriously, for such a relaxed and jovial-looking guy, Larson could freaking demonically shred) Cassidy is a more than solid player in his own right. We join the band in welcoming him to the fold, and wishing Larson best of luck as he hits the books in September.

Certainly the plight of school versus creative output versus career isn’t rare. When they played an opening slot at The Electric Factory this spring, Philly pop punks Modern Baseball were lauded by Dan “Soupy” Campbell of headliners The Wonder Years for not throwing themselves full-on into the music industry grind just yet. The MoBo guys are finishing various degrees at Drexel University and Chestnut Hill College as their album You’re Gonna Miss It All builds in popularity and critical acclaim.

“Even with all that upward trajectory,” Campbell told the sold-out E Factory crowd, “They’ve got the smarts, and they’re heading back to Philly when tour is over to finish up school.”

More recently, Matthew Kerr – guitarist of local indie faves Family Vacation – announced his departure from the band to pursue his education career.

And while these life crossroads might be difficult and bittersweet, they are not fraught with finality in the least. The pendulum always swings the other way, and artists can just as easily go from bagging groceries part-time and / or teaching full-time to making one of the most talked-about records of a given year (see, for example, Elliott Sharp’s Clocked-In interview with Strand of Oaks).

So, as the band alluded to on Facebook, we’re excited for what Larson’s next chapter brings.

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