Growing a rock band in Eagle County
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Starting up a successful rock band in the Eagle County is a four-step process: Find people you like to play music with, find a place to practice, book a gig, don’t screw it up.
Accomplishing the latter requires talent, cohesion and an original sound. Having been around the block a few times doesn’t hurt either, which is why you may notice many of the same names appearing on rosters for a couple different groups in town.
One of those new bands with familiar faces is The Sessh, which will play Finnegan’s in Avon tonight. Comprised of bassist Cristian Basso and drummer Roy Burki from the local group Little Hercules of yesteryear, as well as Trevor Jones from Frogs Gone Fishin’ on guitar, The Sessh is a prime example of a budding local band striving to develop its own style.
“With The Sessh, in terms of personnel, there was a vision of what I wanted to accomplish musically and how to do that on a local level,” said Eagle resident Cristian Basso. “I brought both Roy and Trevor into my sights for different reasons, but in both cases, their musical ability and just talking with them about music convinced me that they would be the right people to put the project together.”
Basso is also the producer and bass player for Royal Peeps, a group fronted by The Meter’s Leo Nocentelli, along with a host of other incredibly talented musicians from around the country. By using computer software to manipulate different sounds created by the band members, The Sessh is a local extension of the work he did on Royal Peeps.
With each of the musicians involved in other projects, one of the biggest challenges is making good use of the time they have together to develop “conversational improv,” which translates into a honest feeling at the live shows, he said. Writing, learning and reworking the material takes time, but no time is more valuable than showtime, when the band develops different arrangements, tests them out and receives feedback from the listeners.
While The Sessh made a conscious effort to play mostly original material from the get go, most groups in the valley begin by playing covers and, if they can hang around long enough, grow by gradually incorporating their own tunes into the repertoire.
Stache, another new band breaking through the critical embryonic stage of playing music in town, faced the initial challenge of developing a good song list for live performances. Comprised of two members of successful local band Hustle, Ben Koelker on guitar and Pete Haugh on drums, as well as newcomer Jimmy Vonesh on the bass, this power trio is in the process of adding original material to a show that consists of covers from artists such as The Black Keys, Hendrix, Live and Stone Temple Pilots.
The group practiced in Vonesh’s garage and had no trouble clicking on a musical level. They had a gig a month later at Main St. Grill, where the audience responded immediately to the band’s debut.
“There was definitely some disagreement on which songs we should play, but after turning them all out, we decided which ones work for us and which ones didn’t,” Koelker said. “We tried to put our own twist on each of the songs that we do as covers… I think everything has come together nicely, and Stache has been a real easy project as far as everyone coming together and listening to each other.”
But it isn’t always so easy for guys like Koelker. He lived in the Vail Valley for a year-and-a-half before finding the right people to play with. Initially he joined a band called Bliss on Tap, which disbanded not too long after.
Koelker later found a role as a bassist in the early days of Hustle along with drummer Pete Haugh, who says one of the toughest parts of getting a band together is finding a place to rehearse.
“Before Hustle and before everything, the problem was how are we going to find a place to practice up here?” Haugh said. “Once you get the guys together and you have a place to practice, there are plenty of opportunities to play live music around town.”
And for newer groups like The Sessh and Stache, there is a moment at one of those live performances when the audience really responds and the band members realize they are onto something good. For Stache, it was the first show at Main St., playing for a packed house of people happily dancing. For the Sessh, it was a show at Paddy’s in Eagle-Vail.
“I think we were all all taken by what happened there,” Basso said. “Roy and I were talking about the magic of music that you really can’t plan for. You can strive for it and hope to get there. It’s a feeling when the audience wants you to know that they were moved. Once we get that kind of positive feedback, you begin to put it all together.”
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