Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers (BMUZ) is not your average folk band.
Founded in 2006 by four Berklee College of Music students, BMUZ decided to do something really different. They combined Scandinavian music and a nyckelharpa with American Old Time music, four and five string fiddles and a jazz and bluegrass guitarist. The result? A contemporary string band filled with epic triple fiddles, catchy melodies and driving rhythms full of raw energy and mashy quirk.
Although they think of themselves as a musical unit, the members of BMUZ each have their own individual sound. Bronwyn Bird grew up performing in musical theater. As a teenager, she discovered a nyckelharpa hanging on a neighbor’s wall, and quickly fell in love with the instrument. While spending a year in Sweden studying Swedish music, she built the nyckelharpa she currently uses. Andy Reiner grew up in a musical family and spent his childhood attending music camps where he was exposed to a myriad of styles of folk and contemporary music. He can’t choose which genre he likes playing the most, so he tends to successfully mesh them all together. Stash Wyslouch thought he was going to be an engineer until quite recently. His music has moved from heavy metal to bluegrass and jazz and draws on his Columbian and Polish background and love of reggae and funky grooves for his quirky compositions. Mariel Vandersteel grew up playing traditional Irish, Scottish and Quebecois music at contra dances as well as touring with Alasdair Fraser and the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers and with the Black Brothers. Before Berklee, she spent her summers studying music in Ireland and across the US and has spent four months studying the hardingfele in Norway.
Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers has performed across the country at the Kennedy Center (Washington DC), The Freight and Salvage (CA), Club Passim (MA) and the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour (KY). After playing in the Emerging Artist Showcase at the 2008 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, they were voted back to perform as the 2009 FRFF’s Most Wanted Artists. Other festivals they have performed at are: Blissfest, Champlain Valley Folk Festival, the New England Folk Festival and the Boston Celtic Music Festival. They have had official showcases at the International Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, TN. and at the New England Regional Folk Alliance.
Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers have been called, “an extraordinary group of wonderful young musicians” (Matt Glaser, Berklee College of Music) and as, “a band you can’t put a label on.” (Matt Smith, Club Passim). Many have called BMUZ the next generation of roots and folk music and they have been compared to other genre-breaking bands such as Crooked Still, The Duhks, and Vasen. According to Paul Hartman, editor of Dirty Linen magazine, “the next generation…shows that folk/roots music is in good hands and will continue to be played and evolve…Just a few of the younger artists are Carolina Chocolate Drops, Crooked Still, Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers…” BMUZ is a truly eclectic band that continues to skillfully and creatively push the boundaries of folk music. While combining old melodies with quirky new compositions, it will be exciting to watch BMUZ’s future blossom.
2009 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Most Wanted Artist
2009 International Folk Alliance Conference - Official Showcase
2008 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival - Emerging Artist Showcase
2008 International Folk Alliance Conference - Official Showcase
2008 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance - Tricentric Showcase
Selection of past performance venues:
-The Kennedy Center
- The Freight and Salvage (CA)
- Club Passim (MA)
- Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour (KY)
- Berklee Performance Center (MA)
- Trinity Church Wall Street (NY)
- The Iron Horse (opening for The Waybacks) (MA)
- Blissfest (MI)
- Puck (PA)
- Toad (MA)
- Champlain Valley Folk Fest (VT)
Bronwyn Bird: Nyckelharpa, Accordian, Vocals
Stash Wyslouch: Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
Mariel Vandersteel: Hardanger Fiddle, Octave Fiddle, Fiddle, Vocals
Andy Reiner: 5-string Fiddle, Octave Fiddle, Mandolin, Vocals
New Full Length Album to be released in 2010! (Stay tuned for more details)
The Antler Sessions (2008)
Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers EP (2006)
Editor of Dirty Linen and BMUZ
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Paul Hartman on Dirty Linen Paul Hartman is interviewed by Tim O'Shea. O’Shea: How odd is it t...Paul Hartman on Dirty Linen
Paul Hartman is interviewed by Tim O'Shea.
O’Shea: How odd is it to be in the position to have covered musicians like Richard and Linda Thompson, Steve Earle and Loudon Wainwright III, and now to find yourself covering their next generation—Teddy Thomson, Justin Townes Earle as well as Rufus and Martha Wainwright?
Hartman: Now you’re making me feel old!
The next generation, not only children of professional musicians, but others as well, shows that folk/roots music is in good hands and will continue to be played and evolve. It’s not a dusty relic on a museum shelf, fixed in time forever. People continue to add to and change the music.
Just a few of the younger artists are Carolina Chocolate Drops, Crooked Still, Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers, Julie Fowlis, Leela & Ellie Grace, and Maeve Gilchrist.
Enter the Young - BMUZ @ Champlain Valley Folk Festival
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Blue Moose tears up the stage at the Champlain Folk Festival. We’ve just come back from the 2...
Blue Moose tears up the stage at the Champlain Folk Festival.
We’ve just come back from the 26th annual Champlain Folk Festival held at Kingsland Bay State Park and would like to report that acoustic music is alive and well in Vermont. We’d like to, but it’s not so.
This is not a slam against the Champlain Festival. It’s a miracle that it took place at all given the loss of corporate sponsorship and an economic collapse that has shrunk the donor list to one that fits on a single column of the program. And bad weather on Friday and Sunday didn’t help.
And it’s certainly no slam at the performances. Among the highlights were Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp singing gorgeous songs of hardship and hope dug from the hills of West Virginia; Laura Risk, just one month removed from the birth of her second child, laying down misty Scottish fiddle tunes and lively Quebec reels; Sana Ndiaye explaining the intricacies of the ekonting, a three-stringed West African banjo ancestor; The MacArthurs anointing the new stage named for their late mother; Annie Rosen amazing with unexpected tender vocal moments; and Marc Maziade showcasing an unheard of thing: French-Canadian banjo picking. The dance floor was sizzling and packed, despite treacle-like humidity.
So what was lacking? Young folks! They were on site on Saturday, but seldom at the music venues. Instead they were busy plunging into Lake Champlain, sunning themselves on floating docks, scarping up Island Ice Cream—the ginger comes highly recommended—and heading back to the lake for more watery fun. To be fair, it was a hot day and the lake was inviting, but a generation ago if you had given young folks a choice between swimming or tunes, music would have won hands down. Music is the altar at which Baby Boomers and Gen X worshiped, but the missionary efforts have been weak. Much of what we see on acoustic music stages, dance floors, and in concert seats is simply too gray to be sustainable.
This brings me to the band that was the surprise hit of the festival: Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers, a saucy band from Boston that was everything that was lacking elsewhere: pathbreaking, energetic, insouciant, and young. Yes, guitarist Stash Wyslouch and fiddler Andy Reiner exude a bit of attitude. No, you won’t hear nyckelharpa maven Bronwyn Bird or fiddler Mariel Vandersteel give academic discourses on traditional playing styles. Blue Moose calls their mash-up of Norwegian, Swedish, and old-time American tunes “Scandilachian,” and good on them. Enough already with preservation—traditional music roots are deep enough. It’s time to get irreverent, funky, and greener. Blue Moose was the only band to pack the Saturday showcase concerts and the only one that lured the young folks out of the water. Like Canada’s The Dukhs, Sweden’s Vasen, or the rising American bluegrass band Crooked Still, they embody hope for the future of acoustic music, if Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and festival organizers can stop reliving the past and make way for the whelps.
Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers
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One of the dynamic new fiddle bands to come bubbling up from that frenzied, percolating hotbed of cr...One of the dynamic new fiddle bands to come bubbling up from that frenzied, percolating hotbed of creativity "the Boston neo-trad scene," Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers (BMUZ to their friends) is quite the band to catch. Weaving influences from Appalachian mountain music to Celtic to traditional Scandinavian, the four members of the group mix tunes and songs from varied traditions and their own sparkling originals, with startling rhythms and innovative arrangements a-plenty. Like fellow Berklee College of Music graduates, Crooked Still, BMUZ offers amazing chops, inventiveness, and verve—and they surely do know how to rock the house, as well.
In the venerable tradition of bands that start as a group of friends jamming and swapping tunes, BMUZ features an eclectic lineup of instrumental skills. Bronwyn Bird plays accordion and nykelharpa (a traditional Swedish bowed, keyed instrument that's difficult to describe, but sounds heavenly); Andy Reiner is a fine, fiery fiddler in the Cape Breton tradition; Mariel Vandersteel specializes in Norway's haunting hardanger fiddle; and guitarist Stash Wyslouch propels it all along with his driving grooves.
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"Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers are a band you can't put a label on. They take songs and tune..."Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers are a band you can't put a label on. They take songs and tunes, old and new, and infuse them with an almost punk-rock kind of energy, all the while respecting the traditions. Labels are good for marketing - what BMUZ has is good for MUSIC!" -Matt Smith, Manager of Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
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“Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers is one of the dynamic new fiddle bands arising out of the bub...“Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers is one of the dynamic new fiddle bands arising out of the bubbling Boston neo-trad scene. Weaving influences from Appalachian old-time to Celtic to Scandinavian mixing tunes and songs from varied traditions with their own sparkling originals, BMUZ bring chops, inventiveness, elán, and camaraderie to their music--and know how to rock the house to boot. All Berklee students, their sound is clearly in the tradition-busting tradition of eclectic improvisatory fiddle music pioneered by the likes of Darol Anger and Matt Glaser (head of Berklee's Strings Department.) Don't be surprised to find Blue Moose out there as well, spreading the World Fiddle gospel in days to come.”
Video of our performance at Trinity Church Wall Street in NY, NY.
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Review of our Trinity Church Wall Street performance
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Concert Review: Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers at Trinity Church, NYC 4/16/09 April 16, 2009 ·...Concert Review: Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers at Trinity Church, NYC 4/16/09
April 16, 2009 · Leave a Comment
The hippy-dippy name is deceptive. Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers are not a jam band (although they probably could be) – they’ve taken it upon themselves to introduce American audiences to traditional Swedish fiddle music. Playing completely without amplification in the echoey confines of the beloved old downtown historic landmark, they impressed with their seemingly effortless command and unaffected love for the genre. Along with acoustic guitar, mandolin and violin, the band features a nyckelharpa, a cross between an autoharp and a viola, with keys and a set of resonating strings in addition to the usual four which are bowed or plucked.
Throughout the set, they often alternated between bouncy folk dance numbers and darker, more stately instrumentals, in addition to a vivid sea chantey and a wistful ballad, both with English lyrics, the latter delivered by the band’s two women on vocals and nyckelharpa. Several of the other pieces on the bill managed to be both rousing and hypnotic at the same time, aided by the band’s fondness for tunings that maximized the eerie overtones emanating from the strings. An original titled Burbank Street began with scatty vocalese from the two women, turning slow and dark and then light again with split-second precision. They wound up the show with a pretty, atmospheric waltz and a tongue-in-cheek original called Welcome to My Cave, its silly lyrics offset by the almost gleefully dark atmospherics of the melody. Fans of the well-known Scandinavian string bands like Frigg and JPP will enjoy this stuff; bluegrass fans should also check them out, they’re a lot of fun. If the hour had been later, there doubtlessly would have been people dancing in the aisles.
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You’ve gotta wonder sometimes where the next generation of folk musicians are going to come from. Wh...You’ve gotta wonder sometimes where the next generation of folk musicians are going to come from. Who, of that younger generation, really cares about the deep roots of folk music? Well, Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers is a good place to start. These youngsters call Boston their home (fitting since for decades much of the great folk music has come out of New England). More astute observers of the neo-trad movement than I have proclaimed these Berklee School Of Music students as the future of the sound. They mix Appalachian roots music with Scandinavian folk and rhythms from around the world.
I suspect these songs are just demos, they are a little rough around the edges, but you can clearly tell that the musicianship and the wealth of musical ideas are present. If you’re lucky enough to be attending this years Folk Alliance you’ll have a chance to see them live.
Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers - made me cry!
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Now, how the heck could a group with THAT name make me cry? Well the story is: While at the North...Now, how the heck could a group with THAT name make me cry?
Well the story is: While at the North American Folk Alliance in Memphis last month, I was walking down a corridor at the hotel, and heard this music-all stringed instruments, played with unique rhythm and a edgy Celtic feel…I followed the sound, and found this quite handsome group of young people playing in their hotel room, door open, rehearsing…I stepped partway in, stayed still and listened…and by the end of whatever song it was they were playing, found myself with tears rolling down my face! The music, and the energy they created amongst themselves, was beautiful.
Then it seemed they were everywhere for the remainder of the week! These musicians worked so hard…they played anywhere-and anytime-they could. I was constantly running into them…LUCKY ME!!!
BMUZ (I love it!) hails from Boston, Massachusetts, and play frequently in the area, as well as at many festivals. Bronwyn Bird, Andy Reiner, Mariel Vandersteel, and Stash are among some of the most talented musicans around. You can see them and hear samples of their music at www.bmuz.net or myspace.com/unbuttonedzippers.
Depending on the show, we can do:
-Two 30 minute sets
-Two 45 minute sets.
We can work out the length of set you would like.
Some tunes we usually do are:
Burbank St (B.Bird)
Saucy Sailor (trad.)
Roust About (trad.)
Sail Away Ladies (trad.)
Welcome to My Cave (S. Wyslouch)
Lost in Lowell (M.Vandersteel)/Fiddle Woody Jones (A.Reiner)
and many others....
There are no upcoming dates at this time.