Hold the “Insomniac” all night …

In the early 1990s, I spent a lot of nights out listening to live music in the Atlanta area. Off the top of my head, I could easily list a dozen or so bands I saw more than once, and at the same time, there are probably three times as many whose names I can’t remember.

Of all the acts, Michelle Malone, Kristen Hall and Billy Pilgrim got the lion’s share of my attention. I’ve seen them all at least a dozen times in numerous places. Of the three, I’ve seen Malone more than any one else … so much that I no longer have any idea how many times I’ve seen her.

Billy Pilgrim came on late for me. I had seen them several times when they simply went by their names … Andrew Hyra and Kristian Bush. Honestly, they were good, but they were never anything special for me. I never went to specifically see them anywhere. My friend Chris liked them more than I did.

Eventually they got a record deal and took the name of Kurt Vonnegut’s character. They took some of the songs they had performed as Andrew Hyra and Kristian Bush and re-recorded them for their big-label record under the new name, and one of those was a song Bush wrote, “Insomniac.”

“Insomniac” by Krisitan Bush

I can see you, don’t even know you
Falling into the sheets at night
I place my hands flat on my chest
I feel the heart beat back the night
I try counting sheep, and I talk to the shepherd
And I play with my pillow for ever and ever
I sit alone and I watch the clock
I breathe in on the tick and out on the tock

I can hear your bare feet on the kitchen floor
I don’t have to have these dreams no more
Cause I’ve found someone just to hold me tight
Hold the insomniac all night

Dig my head down deep so I can’t hear the cars outside on the street
And the stars are laughing
They get a kick out of my misery
I tried everything short of Aristotle to Dramamine
And the whiskey bottle
Pray for the day when my ship comes in
I can sleep the sleep of the just again …

So thanks to several copies of their second album coming to our student paper (and one into my hands, of course), and a future girlfriend at the paper who knew of them, I started listening to them a little more closely, and “Insomniac” became and still is one of my favorite songs.

While that song lives on for me, sadly Billy Pilgrim does not. Despite a couple more independently released albums and the rumors of another forthcoming big-label deal, it never happened. They split (I don’t know the details) and that was it. A musical crime.

But that story has sort of a happy ending. Bush went on to join the aforementioned Hall and fellow Atlanta singer Jennifer Nettles (Go find her stuff from the Jennifer Nettles Band/Soul Miner’s Daughter and be amazed) to form … a mainstream country act? … Sugarland.

Hall has since departed, but Bush and Nettles have gone on quite successfully and are one of the few groups played on country radio anymore that I can stand.

And I have always wished that Nettles and Bush would record “Insomniac.” I believe a beautiful song (to me) would only become more powerful if Nettles made it hers.

Well, over the past few years, I’ve searched YouTube and the like, trying to find a clip somewhere of Billy Pilgrim performing it. No dice. The only Bush version I can find (at the top of this post) came from a Gardner-Webb University public-access type TV show.

But I have found something bizarre. On a lot of college campuses, there are these big, male acapella singing groups that perform songs, their voices providing all the instrumentation. I don’t know the proper name for these, but at Clemson, the group was know as Tigerroar.

Well, somehow, “Insomniac” has become a staple of these groups. College groups all over the country are performing it. It was a very strange feeling to watch it for the first time. It’s akin to finding your favorite Led Zeppelin song is now being performed at circumcisions, or something even more weird.

Check out the version of  St. Louis University’s Bare Naked Statues:

I didn’t embed all the videos, because that would get ridiculous, … but here are a few links: Wake Forest’s Plead the FifthIndiana’s Straight No ChaserOregon’s On The RocksCase Western Reserve University’s SpeakeasyVermont’s Top CatsSouthern Virginia’s ShamelessMiami U’s Cheezies, … etc. I could go on and on.

There are tens of high school choirs on YouTube performing the same song. Amazing. On more than half of the clips, in the comment sections, someone wants to know, “What song is this?” or “Who did this song?”

Anyway, nothing newsworthy. Just a strange phenomenon.

2 Responses to “Hold the “Insomniac” all night …”

  1. Thanks for this information; I have seen Straight No Chaser (Indiana University’s acapella group) see this dozens of times since the ’90s and never knew the original source of the song. It isn’t quite as circumcision-like live, though… 🙂

  2. Wow, thanks, i have been googling looking for a performance the same as you!
    thanks for the answer, i will stop searching. A pity, this song as fast become my favourite. Its absolutley beautiful. My favourite performance is from On The Rocks!
    Thanks again

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