If there was ever any doubt concerning late Greater Cincinnati radio station WNKU’s ability to have an impact on a band’s trajectory toward success, one need only examine the recent arc of one of the station’s last promotional efforts for rootsy regional AltRock outfit This Pine Box. The band’s seeds were planted in their hometown of Springboro, Ohio when vocalist/guitarist Jake Knight wrote, recorded and released the song “Hold On” while still in high school. The feedback Knight received was overwhelmingly positive so he quickly assembled a band in 2016 with friend and bassist Sean Warpenburg, a keyboardist and a drummer and recorded a debut EP.
Shortly thereafter, Knight came to Cincinnati to see Guided By Voices’ free show on Fountain Square and wound up giving a copy of the EP to WNKU’s Christa Zielke at the station’s members tent. Zielke reportedly shelved the CD for nearly a month, but once she heard it, she immediately brought it to the attention of local music coordinator Matt Moermond, who put the song “Tedious” into rotation. The station then offered This Pine Box a slot at their 2016 Catfish Ball, assigning them the task of “being” Jeff Buckley for the Halloween performance. Their rendition of “Hallelujah” earned them an invitation to play WNKU’s Studio 89, and This Pine Box’s music became a fixture on the station’s playlist.
In January 2017, WNKU made This Pine Box their Local Discovery of the Month.
In the wake of this important exposure, This Pine Box was inundated with show offers and their audience began growing exponentially, a situation that Knight categorically states was tied to WNKU’s efforts on their behalf. Sadly, just as This Pine Box’s star began to ascend, WNKU’s collapsed; after the sales of their signals, the station’s final broadcast was Sept. 28 of last year. This Pine Box performed one last time in honor of WNKU; when the station was celebrated with a surprise award at last year’s Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, This Pine Box did a short set that included, of course, “Hallelujah.”
WNKU would have been all over This Pine Box’s debut full-length, The Way Out, which the band celebrates with its own headlining show at the Woodward this weekend. The 12-track album is a heady blend of all of the band’s previously exhibited gifts — Indie Rock with a twangy Americana heart (think Gomez if they’d been a Midwestern product) and a dynamic range that embraces full bore jams, introspective balladry and the inherent drama and beauty of both, plus a brilliant sense of structure and arrangement that elevates and expands every note and every word.
WNKU may be gone, but This Pine Box’s world-class talent remains intact, revealing a band that is more than ready for its major league close-up.