The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

The National Parks

Combining music and nature in Waco

3 weeks ago

By Skylla Mumana

I’m no hiker. I’m no climber. I’m just a girl who not only loves music, but enjoys highlighting great acts that come to Waco. Last April, Waco opened itself up to uplifting folk music full of adventure, hope and a love of national parks at the Waco Hippodrome.

The Waco Hippodrome:

Opened in 1914, The Waco Hippodrome has been home to business conferences, educational events, wedding rehearsal dinners and everything in between. But at its core, it’s a venue that has brought a wide variety of talent to the streets of the 254. Located in the heart of downtown Waco, the Waco Hippodrome embraces all kinds of music from blues to country to punk rock and so much more. From up-and-coming bands working to break out into the scene, to seasoned musicians on the backend of their tours, this space welcomes artists of every genre. Recently, the venue was home to The National Parks.

The National Parks

Provo, Utah: the home of mountain ranges, scenic drives and waterfalls. In 2013 in the midst of the city’s diverse culture and wildlife was a music scene that gave way to a four-member American indie folk band known as The National Parks. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Brady Parks, pianist Sydney Macfarlane, violinist Megan Taylor Parks and drummer Cameron Brannelly. The band name is a unique play on Parks’ last name and the group’s love for the outdoors.

“I’ve always been really inspired by nature — it’s always found its way into my songwriting,” Parks said. “My last name is Parks so that definitely played into it. It’s kind of a perfect combo of that, and over the years we’ve leaned into that more with our stage presence and everything.”

Before their performance at the Hippodrome, fans were waiting at the auditorium doors hours before showtime. While some were local to the area, others traveled in from different cities across Texas, such as Wimberleigh Johnson and her friends. Johnson, a San Antonio resident and a fan of The National Parks since 2019, bought her ticket the moment she learned that the band was playing here in Waco. For Johnson, this band’s lyrics and ties to nature resonate with her on a deeper level.

“I feel like a lot of pop music and current music that’s popular don’t have deep lyrics that are uplifting. If they’re deep, they’re really sad. I really love how uplifting and excited [The National Parks] are for life,” Johnson said.

The National Parks define their unique sound as ‘Adventure Pop’, or anthemic outdoor music that will empower fans and serve as the soundtrack to their lives. Along with their love of nature, the band often pulls inspiration from artists like Coldplay, Bon Iver, The National, Mumford & Sons and more.

“I connect with that music a lot. I feel like this translates into what we create, you know? What you listen to and what you like just finds its way into that same kind of vibe as what you end up creating,” Brannelly said.

For the band, putting on a great show isn’t just the goal — they want to give their fans a memorable concert experience that they can take home from each show.

“For me, the most impactful concerts I’ve been to are the ones where I felt like it’s an experience,” Parks said. “There’s been several shows that I can point back to that we’ve played that have felt bigger than us just playing music on stage. It’s about a whole room with energy and [people] altogether in that same moment. I think it’s something that connects us as humans, and we try to connect as much as we can.”

The group has maintained a tight-knit dynamic that they developed in their college days at Brigham Young University that easily translates on stage. Since this was the final show of their ‘8th Wonder of the World’ tour, the band wanted to end on a high note. As someone who knew very little about their music before going to this show, they did not disappoint.

Their energy matched the upbeat tempo of the music. Through songs like “Angels”, “8th Wonder” and “Time”, the group set an energetic, dynamic tone that carried through to the end of their performance. Other songs like “Wildflower” and “History Channel” combined their amazing musicality with impressive crowd work and meaningful lyricism. “As We Ran”, one of their closing songs, is also one of their most popular on Spotify, with over 33 million streams. Parks initially wrote this song for a documentary film crew about a love story between two park rangers.

“I was single at the time and just thinking about if I were to write something about my life 50 years from now, what is something I’d want to tell my grandkids about? That’s what it’s kind of about from my perspective,” Parks said. “Living a life you’d want to tell people about.”

Similar to his bandmates, for Brannelly, music is something that constantly drives him, which he notes has helped to propel them throughout their long tour.

“I feel like it’s one of the most powerful driving forces of emotion for me,” Brannelly said. “I feel like every time I feel the most emotion in my life, it’s usually tied to music. Because of that, it’s pushed me into a career of music so I can help bring that to other people.”

In the future, the band hopes to play at more venues such as the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Colorado, and continue to make music with each other. Their newest album is set to be released this coming fall.

“At our core, we’re a band that loves to create music and connect with people,” Parks said, “We have a new album that will be coming out this fall that we’ll be announcing soon. We really hope that this album can help people that are going through tough times, or be a companion on their road trips. Really, I think we like to be the soundtrack to cool things people do in life.”