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Shane Smith & the Saints return to MusicFest

Julia Ben-Asher/For Steamboat Today

— Half a decade ago, the band Shane Smith & the Saints debuted in Steamboat Springs during MusicFest — not on the main stage, not on a side stage, but up the mountain, outside of Slopeside Grill in the snow.

Lead singer Shane Smith and fiddle player Bennett Brown had gotten rides from their native Texas to Steamboat with a PA system in tow, and Slopeside’s management agreed to let the two play their music acoustically all day, accept tips and hand out 5,000 promo CDs. They got free pizza and also got pretty cold.

The next year, the duo returned to repeat their networking strategy.

Texas country singer and MusicFest performer Cory Morrow happened to hear the pair as he was having lunch and asked them to join him on stage during the festival, Smith recalls.

“It was a pretty organic deal, the way it worked itself out,” he said.

This MusicFest, Shane Smith & the Saints are in the official lineup for the second year.

“We’ve been working really hard the past few years, touring and playing as many shows as possible, and it’ll be really nice getting to go up there this time and play shows on the lineup after that legwork has already been made,” Smith said.

The five-man band hails from Austin, Texas, and often takes the stage wearing trucker hats and a band member in overalls. The self-taught Smith is on vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica; Chase Satterwhite plays bass and sings harmony; Zach Stover is on drums and percussion; Tim Allen is on electric guitar, mandolin, dobro and harmony vocals; and besides his fiddle, Brown also sings the final piece of the group’s signature four-part harmonies.

Although the band is playing at MusicFest, most listeners would have a hard time categorizing their music as “country” — its sound is more often described as a blend of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons, Creedence Clearwater, the Zac Brown Band and the Dropkick Murphys.

Shane Smith & the Saints began touring together about five years ago.They debuted their first album, “Coast,” in 2013 and then released “Geronimo” in September 2015.

The 15-song album ranges in both musical style — Americana, rock, Cajun folk and Celtic tones — and lyrical content. The album includes a song about a Pennsylvania coal mine, a love song for Smith’s wife and a tribute to the Apache warrior Geronimo, whose face in a multi-color rendition graces the album cover.

“Geronimo,” the band believes, is what’s taken the band to the next level. Since its release, the musicians broke out of the boundaries of their regular Texas-Oklahoma market and had an exponentially busy year.

This year, the band played its first major festival at Austin City Limits Festival, and its stop at MusicFest is part of a national tour, which includes shows in Chicago, Indianapolis, Albuquerque and Memphis.

Amidst its busy touring schedule, the band is writing and honing its next batch of songs for its next record.

Shane Smith & the Saints will take the MusicFest stage on Wednesday.


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