VAIL - Hot Buttered Rum String Band powered its way up Vail Pass riding in a green, environmentally clean, vegetable eating machine. Well, vegetable oil eating machine, that is.The "Tortuga," Spanish for tortoise and named after the creature's defining characteristics, is the boys' tour bus. It runs on recycled vegetable oil, peanut oil mostly, that the band usually finds in the Dumpsters of Chinese restaurants.
"It burns cleaner, it's a renewable resource and wars aren't being fought over vegetable oil. It also makes touring much more manageable because it's free," Aaron Redner said, Hot Buttered Rum's fiddle and mandolin player.This is the band's second tour bus fueled by vegetable oil. The first, a Techni-colored joy of a vehicle, conked out at 50,000 miles, not bad considering they bought it on eBay for $2,500 from some Vermont Middlebury students who converted it for a class project."The bus is consistent with our music. We have huge respect for nature. It comes from living in the mountains. We write a lot of our songs with nature in mind," Redner said.Hot Buttered Rum String Band calls its music high altitude California bluegrass. Erik Yates (banjo, flutes, accordion, clarinet, and vocals), Zachary Matthews (mandolin, fiddle and vocals), Nat Keefe (guitar and vocals), Bryan Horne (double bass and vocals) and Redner form the band. These guys grew up listening to their families play bluegrass, and revered musicians like Jerry Garcia and David Grisman opened a door into the genre even more, helping to lay a foundation of love for bluegrass and old-time music that the members would later further develop. But Redner said that they are much more than a bluegrass band.
"Our songs have a combination of rooted in tradition and pop sensibility, as well as having a wide range of dynamics from soulful ballads to silly songs to complex instrumentation," said Redner. "We'll pick on the bus and in one session we might play Miles Davis into a old-time string tune to a bluegrass standard to an original."Hot Buttered Rum String Band will be joined by Honky-tonk Homeslice, Billy Nershi of String Cheese Incident and his wife, Jillian, at Frites in Edwards tonight at 10:30. Billy and Jillian were playing around a campfire when their friends encouraged them to form an act. Honkytonk Homeslice is built around rich vocal harmony and strong guitar work, it also gives Billy an outlet to pursue different musical directions other than String Cheese.The two groups hit it off while both playing for a private party thrown by one of the key members of the String Cheese fan community.
"Our band is a big fan of String Cheese. We're honored to be playing with Billy. We've always been attracted to that family-type vibe at the String Cheese shows and environmentally aware and socially conscious people that the music drew. We always thought we would like to develop a fan base like that," said Redner.String Cheese fans are happy with the tour because they had been complaining in a chat rooms that the group wasn't playing enough bluegrass."Billy's into pickin' and stretchin' those chops," Redner said.At Frites tonight, Honkytonk Homeslice will play a set and Hot Buttered Rum will play a set and the third set will be a collaboration. The show, although acoustic, promises to create a big sound, Redner said.
Hot Buttered Rum just sold out the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, not to mention enjoying a jam with the Del McCoury Band on the group's current tour.And all the musicians enjoyed a day ripping fresh powder at Snowmass under the bright blue sky before heading here today. Needless to say, inspiration is high on both ends, so there's no telling what will be played. Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.org.