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Kentucky Sound Arsenal prepares final show

Kentucky Sound Arsenal will play its final performance Saturday night.

A longtime local act that gained a loyal audience in the region is calling it quits, but not before giving fans one final show at their favorite local venue.

Kentucky Sound Arsenal, a two-piece instrumental group made up of Nick Boushee on guitar and drummer James Dravitz, came together more than eight years ago while the two were eighth-graders in East Grand Forks.

Boushee had spent a couple of years playing and writing guitar riffs by himself, and when Dravitz moved to town from Moorhead, they joined forces and have been a band ever since, Boushee said. Kentucky Sound Arsenal has released five albums and taken three nationwide tours. The band's final show is at 10 p.m. Saturday at Mike's Pizza in downtown East Grand Forks. The free performance will feature two sets, one of older material and one with their newer stuff, which will be broken up by local acoustic artist Jamie Mulligan.

Future plans

The band is breaking up because of an upcoming move that will separate the musicians by almost 2,000 miles. Boushee recently graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, and will begin a political science doctoral program at the University of California-Riverside.

Dravitz graduated from North Dakota State University in the spring and will stay in Fargo to earn a master's degree in business administration. Both will continue to play music, Boushee said -- he's going to try to join a band in California, and Dravitz has had several offers to join Fargo bands.

Eight years of music

Boushee said he has no regrets about ending Kentucky Sound Arsenal but wanted to make it clear that they're not calling it quits because they've lost their passion for music.

"Some bands, you see their last show and you go 'Oh, I know why they're quitting -- because it doesn't seem like they care anymore about it.' It wasn't because James and I were sick of each other; it wasn't because we were sick of the songs or anything like that," he said. "I think James and I are both pretty comfortable with the idea now."

The band went on three cross-country tours, heading to the West Coast twice in a row before embarking on an East Coast tour that brought it to Florida, then headed north on the way back to Minnesota.

But the group didn't always have a loyal hometown fan base or its unique style. When he first started playing with Dravitz, Boushee said, they wrote the music in a more traditional style and even made an attempt to add a singer.

They found a vocalist and wrote lyric-focused music for about half a year before figuring out their strengths.

"Then, we committed to just being an instrumental band," he said. "Our songs kind of started changing, too. We didn't stick to any traditional structure because we didn't have to write choruses."

Boushee said their two-piece instrumental outfit was at first a hard sell for getting gigs, and it remains a "nice challenge" to impress audiences in other cities. He remembered a performance two years ago in Las Vegas, a city known for its love of the extravagant, when they were asked where the rest of the band was as they got ready to start the show.

"When we were done, they were like 'Wow, you guys sounded really big,'" he said. "It was one of our best shows."

Boushee and Dravitz were several years away from being 21 when they started, so they couldn't play at the bars or nightclubs that make up most regional live music spots. The band played frequent shows at Mike's Pizza and picked that location to play its farewell show because of the good memories associated with its previous performances there.

"It's a nice environment," he said. "We usually kick off all our tours there. We've never had a bad show there either."

Johnson covers local music events and writes a music blog at Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to