Local bluegrass and roots trio Stillhouse Junkies are lifting the virtual concert to a new level.
Taking on the role as concert promoters and producers in addition to performers, the trio is organizing a series of eight shows billed as the Sidecar Online Concert Series that will run biweekly into February, featuring local acts as well as nationally recognized bands. Using a Zoom platform, it won’t be a band playing to their computer cameras with no way to see or interact with the audience. Instead, it will be like a Zoom meeting many have become way too familiar and aggravated with, as it will be more like a video call centered around the performers, with attendees given the opportunity to see other viewers.
“This will allow audience members to actually see each other, react to the music and interact in ways impossible for a one-way streaming show, which is most of what you see these days,” said Stillhouse Junkie member Fred Kosak. “We hope this will elevate Sidecar to a more premium, high-value experience.”
The series will kick off Saturday, with music by Brendan Shafer and Robin Davis of Six Dollar String Band, Stillhouse Junkies and Bowregard out of Boulder.
Stillhouse Junkies and Bowregard have been pals since competing in the band competition at the 2019 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which Bowregard won. Despite these events being a competition, there is no sense of tense opposition or antagonism between performers; the vibe is quite the opposite, and in 2019 both Bowregard and Stillhouse Junkies were so taken with each other they knew they would appear on the same bills into the future.
“You’d think that’s a situation where people would be butting heads because you’re competing, but it’s this big love fest,” said Bowregard dobro player Justin Konrad. “And we were happy to make friends with all these other bands and the Junkies were the ones that we really bonded with and really enjoyed hanging out with, and we said we need to make playing with them an ongoing thing.”
Bowregard formed in 2017, after band members met at the weekly jam session at the now-defunct Conor O’Neill’s pub in Boulder. Sensing a musical synergy, the band members – who in addition to Konrad are Max Kabat on guitar, James Armington on banjo, Colleen Heine on fiddle and Zachary Smith on bass (all handle vocals) – quickly got cracking on turning this from a loose outfit of open-jam attendees to a full-fledged band. They entered in and won the 2018 Ullrgrass Band Competition in Golden, then did it again in Telluride the next year.
A high-energy outfit with driving instrumentation and classic bluegrass harmonies, they’re a band that take the best elements of the Boulder acoustic music scene and roll them into one. Boulder’s not without its jam-influenced bluegrass, but its also has an old-time and traditional bluegrass scene as well. The band’s recorded debut “Arrows” walks that line between progressive and traditional bluegrass while also having a country shuffle; yet if there’s one unifying element that lives both on record and in their live show, it’s vigor.
“I do think that this particular crew, we just specialize in energy. Whether it’s old-time that has a real driving force, or it’s something more progressive, I think we all just really love stuff that’s very energetic,” said bass player Smith. “Yeah, we can make it soft and tender, too, but we have a lot of fun on stage, and I feel like we have something special when it comes to the energy we put across and how fans will react to that music. I think we’re all just kind of drawn to energetic music and powerful stuff.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.