Katie Carroll: WheelHouse
Steamboat Springs — Bluegrass. Whiskey. Saturday at Slopeside.
I can’t imagine you need more description to convey awesome, but I’ll go on. WheelHouse brings their powerhouse sound to the Slopeside beach three times this weekend. “They have a really broad sound — rock and Americana — it’s almost bluegrass, but it’s not,” said Brian Smith, one of Steamboat’s well-known music promoters. The guitar, fiddle, and stand-up bass blend will certainly rock people out of the Right O’ Way stupor for sure. As the band has evolved in the last two years, their sound has become more acoustic and less electric or even percussive. Band member Frank Busch explained, “[We] wanted to explore the more acoustic Americana Red Dirt Bluegrass kinda feel with more of a country aspect.”
They weave stories in their original lyrics, ranging from the first giddy flirtations in “Tonight” and “Moonlight Drive”— where guess what, they go on a romantic moonlight drive — and musings over just what happens when the sun and moon trade places (hint: freedom). “Hungover and Broken Hearted” is the song we can all empathize with the morning after making poor decisions: “I learned about love and madness… I don’t think I can take much more/I spent last night on the bathroom floor.” Someone, make sure this band gets to Sunpies! These singles are off of their latest album, 2013’s The Comeback, but their next album is slated to come out later this month.
Here’s what cements WheelHouse as a truly American Americana band: whiskey. Honoring the ancient and sacred connection between music and beer, they distill their own spirit called WheelHouse Whiskey. Awhile back the band was considering a liquor sponsor, but Busch said the group mulled it over and thought, “Why don’t we invest some time in this and make it our own thing?” If only all bands were this reverent towards the amber liquid. Over quite a long process — two years at least — WheelHouse has come up with a four grain, two year aged, 80 proof whiskey… that we cannot even try at Slopeside because it’s only available in the state of Wisconsin, their home state. What a tease!
However, this weekend we do get the WheelHouse (if not the whiskey). The foursome is heading to Steamboat for some warmer temps, sunshine, and Strawberry Park, natch. “It’s just a cool little town, you know? Really laid back, cool people who like music,” Busch told me while on the phone at a Nebraska truck stop. “[We’re] looking forward to recharging and playing a few shows…we want to come out two or three times a year now.” Everyone is subject to the Yampa Valley Curse, even midwestern musicians.
WheelHouse is: Kenny Leiser, Frank Busch, Nic Adamany and Mark Noxon. They are playing two sets at Slopeside Grill on Saturday, March 7, 1:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. WheelHouse plays Sunday, March 8 at 2 p.m.. This weekend, we’ve got bluegrass, and we’ve got whiskey. You’re welcome.
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As the snow melting off the peaks surrounding Steamboat Springs feeds the Yampa River, rafters, canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders are trying to make the most of it.