Sunday, May 19, 2024

Rugger by day, rocker by night

Casey Halloran screams into a microphone during his last house show with Lagrogg.

 

By Collin Bolebruch

Casey Halloran is a week away from graduating. He spurred “real life” for stability and an education — and now it’s time for him to get back to living it.

“It’s going to be over eventually, and I’m so aware of that. So I’ve been partying my fucking ass off.”

During his time at Plattsburgh, the hometown kid became a rugby star and the frontman of his band, Lagrøgg.

“I am by no means any master of anything.”

 

‘IN THE FUCKING BUSHES’

Casey was born in Arizona and lived in Maine and Pennsylvania before landing in Westport, New York.

Casey attended Seton Catholic High School in Plattsburgh. He was a multi-sport athlete, playing golf, soccer and hockey. While on the hockey team, Casey was captured by the bond of sports.

“It’s like a brotherhood, dude. It’s like Southern football up here,” Casey said. “I made great, brotherly connections.”

It took Casey some encouragement, though, to explore the world of music. His then-girlfriend pointed out that he had a passion for singing — but he didn’t have time to pursue it. As soon as he graduated in 2018, he was on the move again.

Casey spent the next few years traveling, working and playing men’s league soccer seasonally at home. He visited many countries, including Cambodia, Portugal, Vietnam, Uganda and Egypt. Casey claimed he’s visited every continent but Antarctica.

Portugal gave Casey a reintroduction to music.

“I was traveling. I was in Portugal living off dumpster diving and living in the fucking bushes and shit with this guy, this random guy. He called himself a wizard. He was a wacko. Super cool,” Casey said.

Casey saved up money for weeks, eventually purchasing a guitalele. He brought it back home and learned how to play, roped back into an affection for music.

Casey started playing with a coworker, drummer Greg Dimoulas, at Monopole open mics when he was home. The two picked up a childhood friend of Casey, guitarist Blake Liberi, who learned to play bass on the fly for the group.

“First, he’s a leader,” Blake said. “He is somebody you can follow very easily. He will show you what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Casey, Blake and Greg eventually went their separate ways, and Casey was back on the go. For the next year, Casey traveled the world again, touching the corners of the earth.

 

By Collin Bolebruch

Casey Halloran pushes through two teammates in a scrimmage.

 

‘MISSING SOMETHING’

Casey, who had taken some classes at Clinton Community College, came to a realization during the summer of 2022 and needed to make a decision about his future. He was going to get his degree at Plattsburgh.

“I was just fucking around. I need some structure. I need something real,” Casey said. “I could go to a new school somewhere else, explore, meet new people and that’d be great, or I can go to Plattsburgh because I know there’s no music scene and I can help create one.”

Back home, Casey reconnected with Greg and Blake. The trio picked up its first gig at Peabody’s. 

“I’m sure it was probably our worst gig ever,” Casey said. 

The quality of their sound didn’t matter. The crowd was full of family, friends, teachers and coaches.

“Having a lot of people there was really big for us, because we’ve really been fortunate enough to play for a good crowd every time since then,” Casey said.

The band then attended a The Gallery show, where they realized there were others like them. They founded Lagrøgg that night in a parking lot. Lagrøgg later welcomed a bassist, Edward Morris, whom Casey met while working at Chapter One as a barista.

Everything was going great for Casey. He had friends, a band and a new music scene — but he couldn’t shake dissatisfaction.

“I’m missing something,” Casey said. “Holy shit. Every time I’ve ever been in school I’ve been in sports.”

Casey knew Noah Lederman in passing for more than a decade and had recently connected over a local soccer league. Noah had passed on his spot on the Plattsburgh State soccer team ahead of the 2022 season for club rugby instead. 

Casey reached out to Noah, wanting to join a practice. He was immediately hooked, even if he didn’t know the rules yet.

“I didn’t know what I was fucking doing out there. I was tackling people,” Casey said.

Casey has developed into one of the team’s best players, laying opponents out, scoring tries and always giving it his all.

“He’s a hard-nosed player. He’s a competitive guy,” Noah said. “He’s probably the most competitive guy I know.”

Casey’s teammates repaid him by coming to his second house show, and the president asked him to perform at the rugby house. Casey had always wanted to and knew a live performance would convince the team’s leaders to host.

Lagrøgg has played house shows with rugby multiple times. His teammates prepare the stage, run the door and sell merchandise. Money Lagrøgg makes goes toward the rugby team.

 

‘CRAZY BASTARD’

Casey connected with rugby for the same reason he connected with music — how both can be used to control his feelings.

“It’s a release of anger. It’s less of an art show where I’m expressing my feelings and more of a release of feelings,” Casey said. “Lets fucking go, get amped up and get rid of all this testosterone I don’t need because it’s a fucking bad thing to have too much of.”

All four band members need to be on the same page for a new song to work. The same extends to the crowd.

“It’s all trade. When you’re on stage it’s a fucking trade of energy,” Casey said. “If the crowd isn’t into it, how am I going to get into it? If I’m not into it, how is the crowd going to get into it?”

“It’s very similar with rugby. If I’m out there busting my ass, my teammates are going to see that and they’re going to bust their ass,” Casey said. “If I see one of my boys absolutely truck people and get up and fucking fight and scream, I’m on him. I’m with him.”

The team is better when Casey’s on the field. His teammates all feed off of him.

“(He brings) leadership. He’s a crazy bastard. He’s just crazy. He’s a wicked dude. (He’s got) energy, competitiveness,” Noah said. “He has a sense of humility toward anybody he talks to and to the game. He’s got a rugby personality, so he fits right in.

 

‘A GREAT CHAPTER’

Casey will graduate cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in ecology.

Casey played his final Plattsburgh State rugby game at the annual TnT tournament April 20. 

“We’re going to miss him,” said Noah, who will serve as head coach next season. “It’s going to suck for me as the coach not having him on the field.”

Though his time with the team was shorter than most, he’ll leave a rockstar-sized hole on the pitch.

“The biggest thing about it for me out there is being there with my friends. My brothers out there, fighting for the same fucking shit on the same team backing each other up, having each other’s back. It’s a family,” Casey said.

Lagrøgg most recently played at the rugby house April 27 — their final show at the venue. Strobe lighting lit the room. The crowd was overtaken by a growing mosh pit and people were bodysurfing.

Casey talked to the crowd between songs, shared McDonald’s hamburgers with attendees and even dove into the mosh pit mid-set. The shows remain on track because his bandmates continue to play and his teammates keep the crowd at bay.

Casey isn’t sure what the future holds for Lagrøgg. For now, the group is celebrating the release of its debut EP, “Zeal.”

“It’s a long time coming,” Blake said. “It took us a while. It just feels really good to have it done.”

Whether or not the band has already reached its peak, Casey said he’s proud of what Lagrøgg and everyone who has contributed have left behind.

The love he’s gotten from his fanbase will be something he’ll never forget, Casey said.

“It’s brought so many people together. It’s been so happy for me. My favorite thing to hear from someone is, ‘Dude, these shows have been the highlight of my college experience,’” Casey said. “I hear that — oh my god, I want to cry.”

Casey will be back on the pitch for the Saranac Lake Mountaineers this summer and will work construction jobs. He plans on hitting the road again, and has considered moving to South America to spread his artistry.

Casey said he will always look back on this period of his life, knowing his hard work was for good.

“It’s going to be a great chapter. I’ll always remember it for my whole life,” Casey said. “But there’s going to be much more excitement in my life so I don’t have to worry too much.”

 

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