Colgate’s Favorite Type of Tea: Folk Band Plays the Commons



Mollie Reilly

Last Friday, Colgate welcomed back an old favorite: the Wood’s Tea Company, a folk band from Vermont that has been pleasing generations of Raiders over the years with their entertaining and lively shows.

Combining folk with bluegrass, Celtic tunes, Irish sea shanties and drinking songs, Wood’s Tea Company plays a diverse set of songs that changes at each show. The band also infuses their show with humor, cracking jokes in between tunes and singing witty songs. Collectively, the band plays over a dozen instruments, ranging from the banjo to tin whistles. It’s no wonder that the band has become a favorite of many college audiences.

The four-piece band displays a wide array of talent. Mike Lussen, Rusty Jacobs, Howard Wooden and guest Aaron Flynn each play several instruments throughout the set and share vocals. On some songs, a member will sing a solo; on others, the group sings together in harmony. This dynamic, along with the constant switching of instruments, creates an energetic vibe on stage, never boring the attentive audience.

One signature aspect of any Wood’s Tea Company show is audience participation. Colgate is notorious for being the most involved out of all the band’s many audiences.

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are to have the relationship we do with Colgate,” Wooden said. “We had a tour of 30-40 shows last year, and there were Colgate alumni at every one.”

Colgate students add their own touches to the Wood’s Tea shows, interjecting lyrics that no other group knows. The band has even written a song for Colgate, entitled “Aargh!” after the phrase regularly exclaimed by Colgate students to taunt them during sea shanties.

Approximately 60 students, faculty, and community members attended Friday’s show, held in the Commons. Although first-years in attendance did not know all of the lyrics or clapping rhythms, by the end of the show the entire audience was invested in the music.

On “Wild Rover,” the audience engaged in a clapping rhythm as instructed by Wooden. Another bluegrass tune had a good portion of the audience do-si-doing off to the side throughout the song.

“They know what to do,” Jacobs said.

Tragically, band member Chip Chase passed away in October, leaving a great gap in the hearts and music of the band.

Wood’s Tea hss been touring with various guest members, including former member Tom Mackenzie. Luckily, Aaron Flynn, who joined for this tour, is a highly talented vocalist and guitarist. On “The Wheel,” Flynn showed a gift for the blues, and on a cover of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Flynn showed off his chops on the ukulele.

Other songs in the set warranted singing, clapping and even shouting from the audience. During “Foolish Questions,” a comical song with Jacobs on vocals, students yelled out questions about situations with obvious answers. Throughout “Finnegan’s Wake,” an Irish drinking song, certain phrases were interjected.

“The only people who do that are people from Colgate,” said Wooden.

In addition to putting on a fantastic show, Wood’s Tea Company performs for a cause: helping children in Africa. By just setting up a coffee can for donations at each show, the band has raised over $73,000 that has provided food and clothing for 500 children.

The Wood’s Tea Company’s long standing relationship with Colgate won’t be ending any time soon. Look for their shows in upcoming semesters, or check out their music at