VAIL — Go ahead and write the headline in your head, “Local boy does/plays good.”
When Eric Feldman graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 2005, he was, well … Eric Feldman. Life changes, and while you might remember him as Eric, he’s making a name for himself as Wolf van Elfmand with the five-piece American folk band Von Stomper. They’re getting together with Sean Healey and the Drunken Hearts for a show Friday in the Vail Alehouse. Von Stomper returns to the valley for a Jan. 4 show at Montana’s in Avon.
You know Von Stomper is an American folk band because there’s no front man and no band leader. Everyone plays, everyone writes. It’s musical democracy and it sounds great.
Feldman is quick to point out that he’s not the front man either, nor is he campaigning for the job. He’s just the guy from here, so it’s his turn to talk.
“I grew up listening to String Cheese and Dave Matthews, the same things everyone else was listening to,” Feldman said.
He wandered off to music school in Boston and was introduced to American roots music.
At that Boston music school, he took a class in folk music, and then a class that introduced him to fingerpicking guitar blues, the only one the university offered. That led him to Mississippi John Hurt, the Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Blake and Dave Van Ronk, about whom he recorded a tribute album last year. Throw in a little Arlo Guthrie for good measure.
As a youngster, Feldman listened to oldies 104.3 Chicago.
In Boston, Feldman played with the trio El Duderino, and in New York he regularly performed at Pete’s Candy Store.
These days he organizes the monthly Black Mountain Ramble in Fort Collins where Von Stomper is based, does music therapy and the band is recording constantly.
Solo in a bad room
There’s a bar in Fort Collins where Feldman paid some of his musical dues, playing solo in a bad room while no one listened. Once in a while a friend played along.
They asked the guy who books the musicians if they could bring some friends, and it turned out to be the five players who now comprise Von Stomper.
“Two of the other players were in two other bands. We were diplomatic about trying to get them to spend more time with us,” Feldman said. “We got more busy, they got less busy and now the other two bands have dissolved.”
Since there’s no front man, in that American folk tradition they pass the spotlight around and there’s a healthy competition. Four of them write songs. The bass player just introduced his first.
“Someone writes a good song and it makes you want to write a good song, too,” Feldman said.
They play mostly original material. Once or twice a set they’ll play a cover, but if you give them a listen, then you won’t want them to.
Von Stomper has been together about eight months. They’re touring the southwest and are recording their debut studio album at UI sound studios in Boulder where the Drunken Hearts, The Yawpers and West Water Outlaws all recorded their first major projects.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.