Grad student's one-man jug band gives a new sound to Christmas

The most wonderful season of all took on a whole different tone the other day.

But that’s what happens when traditional Christmas carols are played on decidedly nontraditional instruments. And if there’s anything UO doctoral student Steve Joslin knows how to do, it’s coax music out of things that look nothing like musical instruments.

After all, this is a guy who has made music with everything from old car fenders to his own brain waves. Still, one might be forgiven for doing a double-take at the sight of Joslin coaxing an eloquent “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” out of a rack of … Hydro Flasks.

That’s right, those neon-colored, vacuum-insulated water/coffee/beer jugs people all over campus are toting around also make an effective sort of xylophone when filled with just the right amount of liquid. Joslin, who is working toward a degree in music technology at the UO School of Music and Dance, spent a bit of time the other day performing a carol concert, tapping and banging out tunes using a dozen high-tech canteens.

The whole thing was a bit of a promotion for Bend-based Hydro Flask, which was thrilled when Joslin emailed asking to borrow a few jugs to make music with. Joslin had discovered the tonal qualities of the flasks when he accidently bumped his own Hydro Flask against a chair leg.

“It just made this amazing sound,” he said. “I thought, ‘I have to sample that and do something with it.’”

One thing led to another, and there was Joslin in Thelma Schnitzer Hall doing a Facebook Live concert for Hydro Flask and showing that it doesn’t take brass, woodwinds or strings to make the season bright.

The 25-minute show featured “Carol of the Bells,” “We Three Kings,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and, of course, “Jingle Bells.” It also included a bit of banter with the Hydro Flask folks and a visit from Santa Claus.

What’s next? Well, this gig was pure acoustic Hydro Flask. Imagine what they’ll sound like once Joslin electrifies them.

“Anytime I can get something and make music,” he said, “I’m pretty happy.”

By Greg Bolt, University Communications