Ben Miller Band is back in Steamboat Springs this weekend
January 29, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Going against the so-called “norm,” a band out of Joplin, Missouri, questions why musicians should limit their instruments to homogenized items bought from a music store.
The Ben Miller Band’s collection of lo-tech, mostly self-built instruments includes thrift shop guitars, a couple of horns, a mandolin, banjos, an electric washboard, spoons and a one-string washtub bass composed of a weed eater string attached to a wooden pole.
Through trial and error, the trio — frontman and main songwriter Ben Miller, bassist on the single-string washtub bass Scott Leeper and Doug Dicharry, percussionist from the washboard to drums to trombone — has mastered an unconventional sound.
Bringing their modern mixture of blues, bluegrass, folk and country they call "Ozark Stomp," the three-piece band will perform a show at the Chief Theater at 7 p.m. Friday. The opening act will be the Chicago musician Crow Moses.
"We've rejuvenated homemade items," Miller said. "When people want to start a band, they go get that bass guitarist, drum kit, etc. Why did that become the thing to do?"
Keeping things exciting for themselves and audiences, the group members often visit thrift stores on their time off to explore new materials that would make a good addition in their music. Miller said it sometimes can be equivalent to a chef going to a farmers market.
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"They have such a full sound for just three guys, it's crazy," said Brian Smith, a Chief Theater board member who helps organize programming. "They can play across different plains of music and they definitely know how to get a crowd going."
The first time the Ben Miller Band was in Steamboat Springs more than a year ago, Smith recalled Miller grabbing the set list and said, "I think we are just going to throw this away," and went from there. After that first song, everyone in attendance was up and dancing the rest of the night.
Each of the members with musical backgrounds met at an open mic night Miller was running in Joplin. Soon, they became an official trio after melding together like-minded influences and incorporating the DIY gadgetry out of necessity for instruments.
When they opened for three ZZ Top tours — one in North America and two in Europe — their popularity throughout the U.S. began to spread. They've also recorded a benefit album for Joplin after the tornado hit in 2011. Other albums include "Heavy Load" from 2012 and their most recent album, "Any Way, Shape or Form."
Still trying to find themselves in the studio, Miller said it's an adjustment for a band so familiar with live shows to transition to performing in the recording studio but still producing that live sound. But with the three members’ tenacity and passion for the wide assortment of music they play, it comes naturally.
"Our hearts are in the right place and we want to have the audience enjoy something we enjoy ourselves," Miller said. "Watching that music happen in an organic way and to watch the manufacture of those sounds is a big draw for people."
Tickets for the show are $10 at http://www.chieftheater.com and at the Shoe Chalet and Boutique, next door to the Chief Theater.
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