Potatopalooza rings in fall in Eagle
EAGLE, Colorado – When Eagle merchant Erin Seabury first moved to Colorado more than a decade ago, she fell in love with the music of a Boulder-based band called The Samples.
When it came time to book entertainment for the annual Potatopalooza festival she organizes, Seabury found herself longing to hear that signature Colorado sound. Turns out, she’s a great representation of how The Samples approach gigs these days.
During their 20-plus year history, The Samples recorded 15 albums and embarked on countless tours to promote their music. But nowadays, the band lets the fans come to them.
“I’ve been playing a lot of private shows for hard core fans,” says The Samples front man Sean Kelly. “I played a really cool wedding in Santa Barbara last week. The couple were huge fans and they were in tears to have me be part of their wedding day.”
This unconventional booking strategy says a lot about the group. The Samples have never taken the mainstream approach to the music business. They would converge at a recording studio and emerge with a complete album a week and a half later.
“There is always a rawness to our music and we have always banked on the grassroots support to keep our music alive,” said Kelly.
Seabury’s enthusiasm is a textbook example. “I love the Samples. I love their songs and I think they are unique. I wanted to put Potatopalooza on the map by having a band with big appeal at the venue.”
The Samples are most often described as an alternative rock band. Kelly offers his own take. “Producing music that doesn’t have shelf life has always been my focus,” he said. “I find our sound to be most easily described as melodic.”
Like any band worth its billing, The Samples have a signature story about how they got their name. Back in 1987, band members were renting a small house in south Boulder and struggling to make ends meet. They largely subsisted on the samples handed out at the Table Mesa King Soopers. “We would go back as many times as allowed,” said Kelly.
They started playing gigs around the University of Colorado and branched out to college towns throughout the nation.
“I spend 14 of the best years of my life in Colorado,” Kelly said.
Kelly currently resides in Alpine, Calif. Since leaving Colorado, he has lived a nomadic life but with the bleak national economy, Kelly notes he’s glad the band isn’t trying to sell out venues across the country while living in a tour bus. Plus, Kelly now has a couple of kids at home, and the touring lifestyle isn’t very compatible with raising a family.
Kelly noted he has kind of set down The Samples for a while. “I needed a break. My goal was to hit the 20-year mark and I hit 22.” Currently he is working on a solo album and he recently sold a song to a movie producer. The film is called “Santorini Blue” and it stars Richard Belzer and Ice-T. The producer was a big fan of The Samples and that’s why she approached Kelly for music for the film. The film is slated for a June 2010 release.
“That’s a really cool opportunity and it speaks volumes about our fan base,” said Kelly.
The fan base keeps bringing The Samples back together. In includes people like a Denver-area fan who sells insurance for a living and promotes The Samples as a sideline. Recently, he brought the band in to play following the July 4 Colorado Rapids game. The group then took the stage at the Boulder Theater on July 5.
This laid back approach to booking appeals to Kelly. “I don’t know about the state of the music business right now,” he said. “I’m from Vermont where it takes 36 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup. I’m focused on keep the music real and pure and people can feel that. It’s like maple syrup.”
Kelly is the only founding member still playing with The Samples. The band current lineup features Kelly on lead vocals and guitar. Mike Montrey is on acoustic guitar and vocals. Karl Dietel is on keyboards and vocals. Jared Johnson plays bass and Billy Mutchler plays drums.
In preparation for the Eagle show, Kelly encourages locals to check out various You Tube videos featuring The Samples. He promised lots of good music for Sept. 12. Expect The Samples classics like “Weight of the World” and “Take my Hand” interspersed with less familiar offerings. The Eagle show may even include some of his solo work. “We have 15 albums. I guarantee there’s something that people haven’t heard yet.”
The Samples will take Centennial Stage at Eagle Town Park at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. Admission is $10 in advance or $15 at the gate. No outside alcohol or chairs allowed. Tickets are available at all Alpine Bank locations and online at http://www.potatopalooza.com. Parking is available at the Eagle County Fairgrounds and the Eagle Valley Middle School.