About Austin Gerth


Austin Gerth

Writing & Philosophy

Connect with Austin Gerth

Twitter: @Austin_Gerth

Hello everyone! I’m Austin Gerth, class of 2016, from scenic Princeton, Minnesota. My hobbies include listening to and playing music, reading, watching movies, and thinking about things. I’m majoring in Writing. After college, I hope to be either some sort of writer or some sort of homeless (or both). I chose to come to Concordia mostly for the food, though it has a lot of other good qualities as well. Since coming to Concordia I’ve been to dorm room eggnog parties and late-night viral video productions; I’ve listened to a lot of Justin Timberlake and blindly taken a yoga class with no prior experience; I’ve participated in a heroically unproductive religion study group and fallen asleep in the campus center. On top of these things, I’ve also received a superlative education. If you like wind and pizza, you’ll like Fargo-Moorhead, and if you like corn-oriented humor, semi-gourmet cafeteria food, or late-night intellectual behavior, you’ll like Concordia. If you like all of the above, you’re probably already here and we’re probably already friends.

Austin Gerth

The Very Best of Austin Gerth

Posted in Austin Gerth on April 30th, 2016 by agerth – Comments Off on The Very Best of Austin Gerth


“I cried when I wrote this song.” – Steely Dan, “Deacon Blues”

Since November of 2012, I’ve written 311 posts for The COBBlog. It’ll be 312 once I’ve finished writing this one, which will be my last, since I’m graduating tomorrow. I’ve been blogging here for three and a half years. It’s the longest job I’ve held in my life.

I’ve written at length about my music geekdom on this blog, and I’ve toyed almost since I started writing with the idea of putting together a list of my best blog posts at the end of a year, or a semester, just like some classic rock band heading past its prime, but I’ve never actually done it till now. Below you’ll find links to a subjective selection of my “greatest hits” for the blog. I have tried to represent every year I’ve been at Concordia, and to get good examples of every classic subtype of COBBlog post: doing stuff on campus posts, doing stuff off campus posts, breaks from school posts, summer posts, too much homework posts, no homework posts, it’s really cold in Fargo-Moorhead posts, introspective posts, and, of course, random posts about music I’ve been listening to.

I haven’t started packing or cleaning yet because I’ve been looking through all my old blog posts for this. It’s been a predictably fun and nostalgic way to spend my time today. Some people do their best to document all their memories in photographs, but for the last four years it turns out I’ve preserved mine through blog posts. (And, if you click through some of the posts linked below, you’ll notice that the photos accompanying them are almost uniformly lazy and bad.)

The writing changes with time: Freshman and sophomore years are represented most — although there’s a lot about my writing back then that embarrasses me now, there’s also an energy to those posts that the later ones lack; junior year, which was by far the hardest of my years at Concordia, is represented by the least, and least distinctive, posts; in senior year I got my groove back a little bit and developed a more reflective, perhaps more mature voice for some posts. Or maybe I’m crazy and they’re all the same, all just okay.

Mostly I hope that these posts, flaws and typos and all, shed some light on the experiences, and especially the people, that have made this place a home to me these last four academic years. People and experiences are the currency the value of your college education, and, indeed, probably your whole life, ought to be measured in, not in dollars, not jobs, not degrees.

So, if you’re also a graduating senior, and you’re reading this, and you decide to click on one, or two, or all of the links below, I hope you’ll find something in them that maybe reflects your experience of Concordia just as much as mine. And if you’re a prospective student looking for reasons to come to Concordia, well, here are 20:

Escort Nation

A Pawnshop Odyssey

Road Trip 2: Erin Thompson Edition/’The Hobbit

Bowling (And Not Bowling)

The Time My iPod Went Missing for 10 Days Without Explanation

Chicago Part I: The Megabus

The Overcoat

Where Austin Gerth Experiences a Miracle

The Maiden Voyage of My Milkshake Maker

The Snowbank

Fudge in Anderson Commons

In a World of Cold, Scandinavian Disco Warms the Soul

We No Longer Live in Filth

Class Profile: Symbolic Logic

Who Are These Interesting Books For?

Chill Times in Fargo-Moorhead

I’m Just Gonna Talk About the New Beach House Album

I Got a Couch off the Street

My Star Wars Story

Real College v. Vampire Weekend Lyrics

My Book Proposal

Posted in Austin Gerth on April 29th, 2016 by agerth – Comments Off on My Book Proposal
On the left is what a finished volume in the 33 1/3 series looks like. On the right is the first full draft of my proposal with Dr. Sprunger's comments.

On the left is what a finished volume in the 33 1/3 series looks like. On the right is the first full draft of my proposal with Dr. Sprunger’s comments.

On the desk in my room at home in Princeton, there is a small slip of notebook paper that sits in front of the stereo and hasn’t moved more than a few inches since last summer. It’s a note, and it says, “Most Important Date, May 1st 2016”. Several people have remarked upon the note when they’ve noticed it there, and I tend to explain the reason for it a little sheepishly. A lot of you reading this post probably think you know the reason for that date’s importance: May 1st — i.e. this Sunday, two days from now — is the day the Class of 2016 officially graduates from Concordia College. But you’re wrong. The reason the date on that note is so important is that May 1st is the day my book proposal is due.

I’ll back up and explain further. Last April, I heard about this thing — Bloomsbury, a publishing company, was holding a special open call for proposals for their “33 1/3” series. I was already familiar with the series, but you likely are not: the “33 1/3” series is a line of scholarly monograph-style books about notable albums. (And “scholarly monographs” are critical studies of texts, usually penned by folks like college professors; for example you can buy full-length books about particular Jane Austen novels, or books about classic films.) What made this call for proposals special was that it would only be open to people under the age of 22 because it was being put on in connection with the publication of a textbook, How To Write About Music, aimed in particular at undergraduate students. Given my dual interests in music and in writing, I started plotting my proposal within a few days. Now, after a little over a year of gradual research, writing, and fine-tuning, the proposal is complete — I sent it in at 7:23 this evening. The final document, with its bibliography, came out to a little under 26 pages.

The proposal has been the defining work of my last year here at Concordia, and, for a number of reasons, I will always associate it with this place. I distinctly recall sitting at the picnic table under the tree in front of Lorentzen Hall a little over a year ago, with my laptop open, typing up a giant list of all the albums I thought had any chance of being worthy of book-length study. And, of course, in another instance of two major events lining up poetically, I finished and submitted the proposal on the same day I completed my last final as a student here.

But, moreover, without Concordia, I don’t think there would actually be a finished proposal. This spring I devised an Independent Study course with Dr. Sprunger in the English department, in which course I made a complete proposal draft stand as the major graded project. The course overall was a sort of lit survey in music writing past and present, and it was actually Dr. Sprunger who suggested the idea of a class in the subject to me last fall, before he even knew about the book proposal, but I am certain that combining the class and the proposal — forcing me to set deadlines and work through multiple drafts, as well as providing me an editor and interlocutor — is what ultimately pushed me across the finish line.

Anyway, the album I proposed to write about is Since I Left You, by The Avalanches. I highly recommend it, if you’re unfamiliar with it — it is a great summertime listen.

Saw Hippo Campus Again — This Time in Fargo

Posted in Austin Gerth on April 28th, 2016 by agerth – Comments Off on Saw Hippo Campus Again — This Time in Fargo
I tried to take a photo while the band were playing, but it didn't turn out very well.

I tried to take a photo while the band were playing, but it didn’t turn out very well.

Back in November I reviewed the first headlining show at First Avenue of a young Twin Cities band called Hippo Campus. At that time the band were coming off a summer spent touring, and the sold-out First Ave show was a pretty big milestone. A couple weeks back, I ended up making Hippo Campus one of two local artists I focused on in my COSS presentation about my work. They’re not my favorite band, but they might be my favorite local band. (Well, favorite currently active local band–they get beaten out by Prince and The Replacements if we take a longer view.)

Hippo Campus have been in a state of perpetual ascendancy for two straight years, and, if they drop a debut full-length album this year as they seem to be threatening to do, then, who knows, they might become a pretty big deal on a national level. But for now they’re still small enough outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that they come to Fargo and play the Aquarium, in downtown, on a Tuesday, and they sell out slowly enough that you can buy tickets at the door if you show up a little early. So, on a whim, my girlfriend and I went with a couple of our friends. The show was good. Hippo Campus are a really good live band–they play like one big instrument. They played a couple of new songs, which generally had slightly mellower vibes to them; one had a great falsetto vocal melody on the verses that made me excited to see what they do next.

Been Doin’ Readings Lately

Posted in Austin Gerth on April 23rd, 2016 by agerth – Comments Off on Been Doin’ Readings Lately

Photo credit Rachel Swedin.

Every once in a great while, if you’re a student involved in creative writing here at Concordia, opportunities to read your work publicly on campus may arise, and you should always take those opportunities.

This past week has been an anomaly for me in the reading department, in that I found myself, by some stroke of luck, doing two readings, two nights in a row. It is probably obvious to folks who’ve been in classes with me that I really like reading stuff aloud, to a degree that I’m sure has probably been mildly annoying to some, so this was a situation I was more than OK with finding myself in. On Wednesday I and two other students read at the English Department’s Creative Writing Award reading. Somehow a bunch of my friends found out about the event and showed up, which was surprising, but heartwarming. (I also scored like a dozen mini-scones from the refreshment table after everyone left, which have made the past few mornings pretty rad.) Then on Thursday I was one of many students who read at the Djembe/AfterWork/Concordia’s Beat release party in The Maize. The fun will continue into next week too, with Monday’s final class period of the Senior Writing Seminar being devoted to a reading of our completed work, open to the public.

I MC’d COSS And It Was Pretty Swell

Posted in Austin Gerth on April 16th, 2016 by agerth – Comments Off on I MC’d COSS And It Was Pretty Swell
Me presenting.

Me presenting.

Wednesday was Concordia’s annual Celebration Student Scholarship (aka COSS), during which (most) classes are cancelled in favor of attendance at student-led presentations of curricular and extra-curricular research projects they’ve completed over the course of the year. The Celebration has, during my time here at Concordia, tended to land on a beautiful spring day each year, which is nice, and this one was no exception. Going through four years at Concordia without presenting something at COSS is not something I would recommend. (And if you need ideas about research presentations, I have them; coming up with outlandish COSS topics is a minor hobby of mine.)

This year I had the greatest level of involvement I’ve ever had with the Celebration. I was selected by the English Department’s writing faculty to represent the writing program with a presentation that I ended up devoting to my freelance music writing for the Local Current blog over the years, though what, exactly, I talked about was pretty much left up to me. In addition to giving a presentation, however, I was also invited this year to act as host/MC of the Celebration. This role basically meant I had the pleasure of providing a few opening remarks to kick off the Celebration before the first morning poster session, and that I was sort of generally around for much of the rest of the day’s festivities. I found out last week that, unsurprisingly, it was my professor and research mentor Dr. Duncan, along with a Postcolonial Lit classmate of mine who served on COSS’s planning committee, who pushed for me to be MC; Dr. Duncan mentioned my “ease in public” as a reason for my candidacy, which was certainly the first time I’ve ever been described with such a phrase.

Me giving my opening remarks.

Me giving my opening remarks.

Shouts out to Zach Lipp for his cutting-edge data analysis of Kanye West lyrics, and to Ellen Rethwisch for reading her English Dept. grant-funded poetry, which was wonderful.