Bands come out to play
Bill, the Boys and Sheep hit Levelz tonight
The band mates’ conversation was peppered with references to “when we get to Texas.”
When they get to Texas … they will stencil the band name, Bill Smith, onto Eric Schuemann’s drum kit. They will add more effects to their stage show. They will practice and practice and practice.
“We will become a band,” bass player Ean Smith said.
Though Bill Smith won’t be leaving Steamboat until Nov. 1, tonight will be their send-off show. The group will be moving to music mecca Austin, Texas, where Ean Smith’s parents own a home.
The band members plan to live rent-free and dedicate their time to hours and hours of playing and taking lessons from professional musicians.
For two months, the band will close the door on the outside world, practicing every day, Smith said. When they return to Steamboat for a New Year’s Eve gig at Mahogany Ridge Bar and Grill, they plan to be a different band — a better band.
New Year’s Eve will kick off a tour of Colorado and the Midwest for the band that is ready for the world to take them seriously.
“We need a bigger scene and a bigger market,” Smith said. “We need more competition in order to take it to the next level.”
Which isn’t to say that Steamboat Springs wasn’t a warm incubator to get the band started.
“For how small this town is, it’s incredible how many musicians there are,” Smith said. “And there is a wide range of music, which will be shown very clearly (tonight).”
Tonight’s show will feature three local bands — Bill Smith, Brew Glass Boys and Buzz Cut Sheep — and three very different styles of music ranging from Buzz Cut’s country-punk fusion rock to the bluegrass music of the Brew Glass Boys.
Brew Glass Boys
To Brew Glass Boys guitar player Graham Waters, the show represents how healthy and diverse the Steamboat music scene is.
Waters has been with the bluegrass band for four years and played with members of Bill Smith in the bands Perfectly Frank and Bodacious Tatas. He recently took a job as the soundman at Mahogany Ridge.
After reopening the brewery, the owners of Mahogany Ridge built a stage, installed a high quality sound system and became big supporters of live, and often local, music.
“They did what needed to be done,” Waters said.
Waters moved to Steamboat in 1980, but didn’t start listening to live music in town until ’95. He’s seen it change and improve, he said, but he knows from experience that it’s not the kind of town where you make a living as a musician. Waters and the other members of the Brew Glass Boys have full-time jobs, even though they always have offers to play music.
“If you want to make a living with music, you either have to leave like Bill Smith and pursue a career on the road or be like Randy Kelley and be really versatile.”
Kelley is one of the only musicians in town who makes a living completely through his music. At 50, he is a kind of father of the local music scene. His band, Worried Men, plays every Friday at Mahogany Ridge with a mix of Grateful Dead, rock and a short heavy metal set the audience insists on hearing.
Kelley also plays in the Celtic band Gaeltacht and plays all winter at Western Barbeque in the band Sundog.
He supplements his income by teaching fiddle, guitar and mandolin lessons and recording with people as a session musician.
“I am trying to support my family and still get some musical satisfaction,” Kelley said. “Music and money don’t always mix very well, and this is a hard place to make a living.”
During tourist season, bands such as Worried Men and Sundog take the stage at parties, weddings and guest ranches instead of the bar scene.
Kelley admits that he doesn’t go out to the bars as much anymore but has been watching from afar.
“I think the music scene is really healthy right now,” Kelley said.
To make it as a musician, he said, you have to not just give people what they want, but give them what they didn’t know they wanted.
“Buzz Cut Sheep and Bill Smith are both trying to do something different,” he said. “I like to see people take some risks.”
Buzz Cut Sheep
Buzz Cut Sheep came on the music scene late last year, playing house parties and art openings. All four members of the band hold full-time jobs and use the band as a way to have fun, with no plans to pursue a musical career like Bill Smith.
“I’m just looking forward to (tonight),” drummer Russ Duplesis said. “I used to look ahead to a (music) future, but now I just take one show at a time.”
Duplesis and washtub bass player Matthew Craig said no one in the band really wanted to play outside of the garage when they first got together.
They credit Bill Smith and music promoter Paulie Anderson for getting them on stages beyond private parties.
Now that they are playing more often, Buzz Cut Sheep members are crafting their stage show. As he looks out at the audience, Craig thinks people want more than just music.
“I think they crave something that engages them visually and musically,” he said. “We want to break down the wall between audience and the stage.”
Craig wants tonight’s performance to be about suspension of disbelief.
He watches and admires musicians such as Unknown Hinson who created an alter ego for the stage.
“You can become this person you always wanted to be,” Craig said. “Not only does the audience suspend their disbelief, but so do you.”
“We only have an hour to affect people,” Duplesis said. “Hopefully, the Brew Glass Boys will have them ready for us.”
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Time seemed to stop for Matthew Engle for a few seconds after he heard crunching metal last week while he was in downtown Steamboat Springs.