Trout Steak Revival kicks off the New Year at Warren Station
IF YOU GO:
What: Trout Steak Revival
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, doors at 8:30 p.m., show at 9 p.m.
Where: Warren Station at Keystone Resort
Tickets: $25 day of the show, at WarrenStation.com
“They’re definitely not a traditional bluegrass band,” said Trout Steak Revival’s manager, Drew Gottlieb, of Ramble West Management.
The Denver-based group of five consists of Travis McNamara on the banjo, Steve Foltz on the mandolin, Will Koster on dobro and guitar, Casey Houlihan on stand-up bass and Bevin Foley on the fiddle.
Trout Steak Revival sits somewhere amidst a jumble of overlapping sub-genres: progressive bluegrass, mountain music, American roots music, jam grass, Colorado indie-grass.
Or perhaps they fit none of these categories, leading the charge with their own sound.
“We write our own songs and we have jams to support the songs,” said Foltz. “Bluegrass has to do with influence, where you draw influence. We sing, we write and we play bluegrass instruments. The bluegrass comes into our music in textures and tones.”
‘TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN’ MOMENTS
Foltz listed singer-songwriters, Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe and Tim O’Brien and the well-known Yonder Mountain String Band as some of his greatest influences. Foltz, along with the rest of Trout Steak, toured the country with Yonder Mountain String Band last year, opening for their shows.
Another influential band Foltz mentioned was the Infamous Stringdusters, with whom Trout Steak worked on their last album. Chris Pandolfi of the Infamous Stringdusters produced Trout Steak’s 2015 album “Brighter Every Day.”
“They are an influence. Big time. They deliver a high-energy show every time. They get everyone dancing. We’ve always enjoyed their music as a band. It was a dream come true, a top of the mountain moment,” said Foltz.
In 2014, Trout Steak won the esteemed Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition.
“There have been a lot of peaks and valleys,” said Foltz. “Sometimes you are in the trenches working hard, touring and not sleeping a lot. Sometimes you are up on a mountain. Winning the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s Band Competition was definitely a highlight.”
To add another feather to their collective hat, the band won an Emmy for their soundtrack for Rocky Mountain PBS’ “Great Ingredients,” a documentary about local farms and small-scale food production.
“We have all studied the great pickers before us and it colors the way we play and colors the music we make,” said Foltz.
PICK AND THEN GET TO PICKIN’
All of the band’s members are lead vocalists, songwriters and instrumentalists exerting equal input and energy. The art of learning and mastering string instruments has been a shared journey — when the band was created, some of the members picked up instruments that they’d had no prior experience with.
“We discovered bluegrass, picked our instruments and learned together. We kept practicing. Simultaneously, we learned our instruments,” Foltz said.
The only slight exception to that being the band’s fiddle player, Foley, who had years of extensive experience playing the classical violin and fiddle. Foley originally invited Foltz, Houlihan, Koster and McNamara to open the 2011 Green Beard Bluegrass, a festival in Denver.
“(Foley) sat in with us there (at Green Beard) and that’s how we met. We asked her to play some other shows with us sitting in. We asked her to be a full-time member of the band and what a great addition. She is a wonderful singer and great fiddle player,” said Foltz.
Foley was headlining Green Beard Bluegrass that year with her then-current band, The Mile Markers.
The four male band members met while living in the Midwest prior to moving to Colorado. Some know each other from as far back as camp counselor days and from attending the same college.
During the band’s infancy in 2007, the previously called South Platte River Ramblers would frequently play at the Bucksnort Saloon in Sphinx Park near Pine, Colorado and Highway 285. The band wouldn’t assume Trout Steak as their moniker until a backpacking trip in Eagle County, which held a weekend catchphrase that stuck.
“We went backpacking and were banking on catching fish and eating ’em. We had some whiskey, a mandolin and some food. We were taking turns going out to catch fish and weren’t having any luck. We’d shout across the lake, ‘Catch me a trout steak!’” Foltz remembers.
BRINGING SONGS TO LIFE
If listening to Trout Steak Revival makes you want to sling on a heavy backpack — made heavier by whiskey and picking instruments — and head to the mountains, you’ve got the right idea.
It’s the band’s High Country follies and frolics that inspire their music. Themes of home, love and positivity live inside of their songs, ranging from tap-your-foot-on-the-floor instrumental jigs to lyrical ballads about connecting to the landscape.
“Whenever you are in the mountains your consciousness is modified. It’s opened. The High Country scenery opens your mind and heart to new ideas and new people. You can really feel that in Colorado,” said Foltz.
Their track “Summit County Sunrise” captures a calm, early morning in the Colorado High Country, expressing without lyrics the slow coming to life of a color-infused sky.
“I think it’s the genuine energy and songwriting that really resonates with fans. … More than anything, it is music that is lyric-driven, honest, at times evocative and always fun,” said Gottlieb.
There isn’t just one songwriter, much like how the band doesn’t have a sole vocalist. Gottlieb notes that the band places a lot of importance of collaborative songwriting and creative energy.
“We are big collaborators. We create a song and bring it to the band. Collectively we look at it, edit it. We keep it as close to the source as possible. There are a lot of pitfalls, or ways a song can die. When you bring a song to the band it has a better chance of surviving. Its life becomes longer. The band mates have our back,” Foltz said.
Gottlieb, who has managed the band since 2014, said he has seen a great deal of focus on collaborative songwriting. The band constantly strives to make the product of the whole band better through the commitment of time and energy by individual members.
“As each band member puts more and more into the creative process, it’s easy to see the other band members benefit and thrive off that collaborative energy,” said Gottlieb.
The band has studied the bluegrass legends, can pick like the greats, but produces music within a creative league of its very own.
“We just want to keep going and doing our thing, writing songs,” Foltz said. “We strive for continuity. We hope to keep playing in Colorado and we hope for bigger venues. That would be a bonus. To headline Red Rocks one day would be a dream.”
It can be argued that Trout Steak Revival is leading the Colorado bluegrass scene, a scene that seems to be accepting of many interpretations of bluegrass.
“The band is gaining huge momentum in the Colorado bluegrass scene and beyond,” said Maja Russer, director of events and marketing at The Keystone Neighborhood Company. “Trout Steak packed the house in 2015, and sold out Warren Station.”
This weekend, Trout Steak returns to Warren Station, playing a New Year’s Eve show for the second consecutive year.
In the new year, the band plans to release another album. So, be on the lookout for the next fresh catch by Trout Steak.
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