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Should music hurt this much?

Autumn Phillips
Key points ° Split Lip Rayfield ° 10 p.m. Wednesday ° Levelz in Ski Time Square ° $5 before 10 p.m. ° 870-9090

Key points ° Split Lip Rayfield ° 10 p.m. Wednesday ° Levelz in Ski Time Square ° $5 before 10 p.m. ° 870-9090

Split Lip Rayfield played in Steamboat last year as the opening band for Reverend Horton Heat. Now the band is returning as the headliner of its own show. The band is touring on the heels of its fourth album, “Should Have Seen It Coming,” which was released by the über cool, Chicago-based record label Bloodshot Records. (Bloodshot has put out such bands as the Bottle Rockets, Legendary Shack Shakers and Trailer Bride.)

Split Lip Rayfield is to bluegrass what Sid Vicious was to rock ‘n’ roll or what Medeski, Martin and Wood are to jazz. The instrumentation is the same, some of the musical ideas are the same, but that’s where the similarities end. It’s bluegrass with bloody fingers.

As band member Jeff Eaton plucks away at his homemade instrument — a bass built from a Ford gas tank and one weed-wacker string — it takes a toll on his hand, which he usually keeps wrapped in duct tape.

Who knew acoustic music could hurt that much?

It’s bluegrass with anger and edge. I’d call it redneck punk rock. They call it blaze-grass.

Their press release begins with a telling quote: “These old-timers who tell us that we suck because we don’t play like Bill Monroe? They can go stick it up their (expletive deleted).”

Attempts to set up an interview with the band amounted to a pile of phone messages, so here’s an excerpt from an interview the band’s banjo player Eric Mardis had with 4 Points the last time the band came through town:

“I was a metal kid. … I’ve been in metal and punk bands constantly since college,” Mardis said. “How we got sucked into the country vortex, I’m not sure.”

The country bend started when Wayne Gottstine and Kirk Rundstrom, half of Split Lip Rayfield, started a band called Scroat Belly.

“It was kind of a countrified punk band,” Mardis said.

The alternative country record label Bloodshot Records signed Scroat Belly in the 1990s.

“(Scroat Belly) was too hardcore for country and too country for hardcore,” the label wrote of Scroat Belly. The band only recorded one album, and Gottstine and Rundstrom went on to twist bluegrass in the same way they had twisted country.

“We started hanging out at this bluegrass festival in (Winfield, Kan.,) and I picked up a banjo, and Wayne picked up the mandolin. We were both guitar players before,” Mardis said. “This is just what we sound like on those instruments.

“We really didn’t have a plan for this band. In fact, the first time I saw the gas tank bass, I thought, ‘What the hell?’ But it’s a viable instrument, and it’s a hell of a foundation for our sound.”

According to Bloodshot’s Web site, “(Split Lip Rayfield members) have more tattoos, break more strings and drink more beer than (almost) any of our other bands.”

Split Lip hails from Wichita, Kan. Its music is 99 percent original with a few obscure cover songs.

“We give a pretty high-energy show,” Mardis said. “It’s just good old picking, but it’s not super traditional. People should get ready to have their heads ripped off.”


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