By Brian Turk
Five years ago the members of Trout Steak Revival started out playing other people’s songs at The Bucksnort Saloon in Sphinx Park, Colo. From Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash, they had it covered, but bluegrass wasn’t in the repertoire. Now the band has one of the most quintessentially Colorado bluegrass sounds and this summer they won the band competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Considering past winners include the Dixie Chicks and Nickle Creek, it is undeniable that Trout Steak is strongly swimming upstream.
Last month Trout Steak Revival headlined The Fox Theater for their first time, and Chris Pandolfi and Andy Hall of bluegrass powerhouse The Infamous Stringdusters opened up for the breakthrough band, and with that gig the formula for the band’s success became immediately clear — friendship, teamwork and dedication.
The band members’ roots — except for Denver fiddler Bevin Foley — all trace back to the Upper Midwest, but Colorado eventually called them all here, and after they met the formation of Trout Steak Revival was inevitable. “I was a camp counselor while in college with Will Koster [dobro/guitar] and Casey Houlihan [bass]back in Michigan at a place called Camp Henry,” said banjo and accordian player Travis McNamara, during a recent interview with The Marquee. “Will and I had been campers there. We have known each other since we were 12 years old. There were a lot of acoustic guitars around at camp and we started learning all the songs we wound up playing at The Bucksnort — Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, The Band and stuff like that. We were just learning the songs around the campfire and learning how to play with one another. Will, Casey and a bunch of our Camp Henry friends eventually moved out to Colorado and I made it out here too.”
Mandolin and guitar payer Steve Foltz, during the same interview, added, “Casey and I met at the gym at the University of Minnesota. Casey and I both moved to Colorado within a few months of each other after college. And Casey introduced me to Travis and Will.”
Once Trout Steak started playing out in Denver they pulled fiddle player Bevin Foley into the mix. “Bevin was playing with The Mile Markers,” explained McNamara. “Trout Steak Revival opened up for The Mile Markers at The Walnut Room and she sat in with us for a couple of tunes. We all realized she made us sound so good. Honestly, and as you can tell from how we formed, none of us are lifers on these instruments. But Bevin has been playing fiddle since she was a kid. She sat in with us at a few more shows and then joined the band.”
Not being “lifers” the members of Trout Steak Revival have worked hard to build their musicianship and their band. “We have really studied hard,” said McNamara, “We’ve studied songwriting, compositions and arrangements. We all write and we all help each other write. Harmonies are really important to us. We mostly focus on teamwork. How can we make a song live and breathe in a way that we are all sharing it. Five people are writing, five people are contributing, five people sing lead. When someone else sings lead we all contribute to the harmony. It’s like we are a five-sided die.”
Now hot off of a Telluride Bluegrass band competition win and fresh off the stage of The Fox, Trout Steak is putting their award winning sound on a new record. “Chris Pandolfi for The Infamous Stringdusters is producing our new record,” said McNamara, “He has been a great resource to learn from, in general. I met Chris the first time two years ago at the Rocky Grass Academy. We have all attended the Rockygrass Academy as a band two times now. It’s like adult band camp where the best musicians teach you the week before Rockygrass. Chris and I picked up after that with lessons, once he moved to Denver, and evenutally I asked him to produce our new record.”
It’s chance encounters like that which has given Trout Steak Revival their momentum, as well as their sound. The band members came to Colorado to backpack and pick by the fire but wound up joining the ranks of some of the nation’s largest bluegrass bands. And while it was never planned out, it sure was no accident.
| Trout Steak Revival |
| Denver Beer Co | October 3 |
| Chatfield Botanic Gardens |
| October 12 |
| Sustainability Park | October 18 |
Recommended if you Like:
• Crooked Still
• Nickel Creek
• The Infamous Stringdusters