Funk-rock trio Ghost Pepper brings the heat to State Bridge |

Funk-rock trio Ghost Pepper brings the heat to State Bridge

Caramie Schnell
Ghost Pepper is Vail native Collin Keller (vocals, guitar, songwriting), Eric Wharton (bass, back-up vocals) and Marc Dolgin (drums). The three attend Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Ghost Pepper, a Boston-based funk-rock trio.

Where: State Bridge Amphitheater, Bond.

When: Friday. Doors open at 8 p.m. Astronaut Mountain Band performs at 9 p.m. and Ghost Pepper headlines at 11 p.m.

Cost: Free.

More information: The band will also perform a free show at Loaded Joe’s in Avon on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. For more on the band, visit

BOND — Considering they named themselves after one of the hottest peppers on earth, Boston-based trio Ghost Pepper decided they ought to take the ghost pepper challenge. A few months back, they simultaneously chomped down on the bright red peppers in the middle of their song “Drowning,” after which they attempted to finish the song. They filmed the dramatic sputtering, red-faced, puking (just bass player Eric Wharton), milk-guzzling after effects, which you can watch on YouTube.

“You could say we lived up to our name,” said Collin Keller, the funk-rock band’s lead singer and guitarist. Formerly Collin Idzikowski, he traded his Polish name for a stage name that would be easier for people to remember, he said. “A ghost pepper packs a punch and during our live shows, we truly try to bring the audience something special, filling every song with energy.”

Keller was born and raised in Eagle County; he graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 2013. You might remember him from his time in the band Awaken Annie, or from some of his acting roles: Ren in “Footloose” and the dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors.” He performed with the Vail Performing Arts Academy for nearly 12 years.

“I loved being a part of those shows,” he said. “I guess you could say I got pretty used to performing throughout my childhood. I was never very good at sports; the stage was where I belonged.”

Joined by French drummer Marc Dolgin, the trio plays indie rock with a bit of funk, blues and pop woven throughout. The band members attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, where they began performing together in late 2013. Along with venues in Massachusetts, the band has performed in Texas, Puerto Rico and are currently touring in Colorado.

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“Colorado is the only place where we have gotten marijuana in our tip jar,” Keller said. “Not that any of us smoke. But it was quite funny to find that buried in there.”

The group performs a free show at State Bridge Amphitheater tonight and another at Loaded Joe’s in Avon Saturday night. Keller took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.

Vail Daily: How do you describe your sound to people who have never heard you perform?

CK: We have a wide range. We like to classify ourselves as funk rock and indie rock. But we touch just about everything creating our own style. But I would say we are some breed of funk rock.

VD: Tell us about some of the cover songs you guys play?

CK: First of all, we never truly play a straight cover. We completely rework it into a new genre with new harmony, melody and groove. Because of this, we like to play well-known songs but completely change them. We have a cover of LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It” but it is a funk song, or Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” as a hard rock tune. The possibilities are endless. Most of our cover choices started as a joke messing with different things and making fun of certain parts until we were like “this actually sounds pretty good!” So you can expect some crazy different covers, if you can even recognize them. But most of our set is filled with upbeat, unique, groovin’ originals.

VD: Why are you going by Collin Keller now instead of Collin Idzikowski?

CK: I realized it was hard to find my music if I just said my name at a show. The average person couldn’t remember, spell correctly or let alone pronounce a strong Polish name like Idzikowski. As much as I love it, I had to part ways for a stage name. I chose Keller for many reasons. Keller Peak is a peak in our Gore Range; as a multi-instrumentalist, one of my influences is Keller Williams, plus the parallelism between Collin and Keller is very satisfying, with two Ls in the middle, consonants at the ends and vowels between them.

VD: Ghost Pepper has performed a lot of shows locally and in Grand Junction recently. How have they gone?

CK: The shows so far have been great! We have had so much fun performing for Coloradans. They sure love their music. Plus you can’t get more scenic long drives than here.

VD: You’ve researched and explored the unique sound frequencies used in Tibetan healing practices, some of which you’ve introduced into your music. This is fascinating. How did you get involved in this?

CK: This is more for my personal music rather than with Ghost Pepper. I have a huge interest in sound healing. I almost took the music therapy major at Berklee, but I was already a double major in performance and songwriting. But I have practiced a lot of my sound healing songs, playing for local yoga and meditation classes. I combine playing prepared guitar, singing bowls and tank drums to create my sound. I think there is so much more to music than just a song. One song can change your mood, one great concert can change the world and I believe music can heal on a spiritual, mental and physical level.

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