Hunker Down
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Hunker Down

Band Rock Bluegrass

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The best kept secret in music

Press


"Locals Hunker Down w/ band"

by Stephanie Buss

Man, can they hunker down.

The five members of Fraser Valley’s favorite “rompgrass” band love their whisky, but their darling is clearly music.

With musical influences from places like Brazil, Spain and Israel, Hunker Down has a bluegrass style all its own. It’s “bluegrass with an edge,” is how Andy Straus likes to describe his band. “With a contagious pulse,” he added. “Our music is smack-in-the-face.”

The band has been playing locally for four years, and started out fractured like most bands do. When Yaniv Salzberg moved to Winter Park, he started playing with band members from Space Heater and Sack Lunch, including Greg Travis.

But when bandmember Jesse McWilliams (“We still consider him a member of the band”) moved to Maine, Salzberg and Travis decided to join up with Andy Straus, John Costa (who was the band’s bass player but recently moved on) and Matt Brown — three members from the Slightly Stewed String Band.

The new band added fiddle player Bobby Krech and became Hunker Down — a name Straus came up with from a day when Brown, who attended the same college with Straus, asked Straus to skip class and practice their instruments.

“I remember him telling me, ‘Hey man — what’s going on? Let’s skip class and go hunker down on our instruments,” Straus said. “That just stuck, this image of getting down . . . hunker down is getting prepared for a big storm. (It’s a) cool way to think about this band.”

Each bandmember has a unique musical background.

Bobby Krech, who lives in Golden, is a luthier — a maker of string instruments such as violins and cellos. An accomplished fiddle player, he’s an essential part of the band, said Salzberg, and knows “hundreds” of fiddle tunes. Krech grew up in Arizona and recently moved to Colorado and joined Hunker Down. Other bands that Krech played with include the Jambusters and Raised on Rhubarb.

Greg Travis, who grew up in Pennsylvania, plays washboard and percussion. His energy is contagious — the rhythm scraped from his two silver spoons sets the fun-loving beat for all six band members. Travis remembers one cold gig — the Ouler fest in Breckenridge — when temperatures reached below zero. The band had to play on a float in a blizzard, and all the whisky in the world couldn't keep Travis’s spoons from freezing to his fingers.

“(Those spoons) conduct the cold really well — I swear I was getting frostbite,” Travis said, smiling. “I had to tape handwarmers to the spoons . . . it worked.”

Straus laughed at the memory of that day.

“These are the challenges our crew goes through up here . . . You’re not supposed to play on a mandolin from 1912 in negative temperatures.”

Straus does most of the booking for the band and considers himself somewhat a manger. He grew up in Ohio and studied ethnomusicology at Miami University. He also studied African music in Ghana, which contributes to the band’s international sound — a sound based on an “intense relationship” with all six bandmembers, said Straus.

“We’re all artists . . . we create something together. We do bicker . . . egos get in the way . . . (but) we’re good buddies. We have a common goal — we want to make this band something special and great. We push each other to become better and grow together.

“Every member brings something that’s really theirs to the table — you get it all mixed in together, and that’s where the magic happens."

Brown, who plays banjo and guitar, spent two years in France and formed his own group there. But along with all of his musical influences, his greatest seem to come from the band and the audiences they play for.

“There’s a group of us involved that makes the audience dance and smile and have a good time,” Brown said. “That makes me have a better time.

“For me, every time we play it’s different,” he added. It’s something special — the crowd is different, the energy . . .”

The fifth piece of the puzzle is Salzberg, who started playing guitar at nine. He was born in Israel and raised in Colorado, where he studied music at the University of Colorado and at the Berklee School of Music. Salzberg hosts open mic night at Buckets every Thursday evening, and he created the band’s

Web site, www.hunkerdownbluegrass.com.

Salzberg and his band members also started the music scene at Splash four years ago. Only Space Heater played the first year, but each year the traditional party in C-Lot collected more bands. This year’s Splash included nine bands — including local bands One Time and Huge in Germany.

“Splash is awesome,” said Brown. “It is the quintessential end-of-the-year locals’ party. We hope it will be even better next year.”

Hunker Down plans to play a lot of gigs this summer, including Folk Fest in Winter Park and shows throughout Steamboat, Boulder and the Front Range. Although they’re branching out, their hearts will never leave Grand County.

“The local music scene around here is stronger than it has ever been,” Brown said. “Musician or fan alike, (they’re all) very supportive. That’s my favorite thing about playing up here — the support of the community.”

Hunker Down is working on a new album, which they hope to have completed by the end of the summer. They currently have one album, “Live and At Home.” The band also plans to tour in Europe at the end of the year to “search out some soul and roots.” France, Spain and Amsterdam are all on the list, and perhaps, Ireland.

Perhaps they’ll sample some good Irish whiskey there — after all, drinking whiskey has become the band’s tradition. Fans already have their shot waiting when Hunker Down gets ready to play.

“We always start a show with a shot of whisky and cheers with the audience,” said Straus. “We connect that way.

“Then it’s on.”

For booking, call Straus at 513-255-1999. Or send an e-mail to hunkerdownbluegrass@yahoo.com
- Grand County Manifest


"Hunkerin Down w/ an Edge"

If you pass by the door of Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill on Saturday night, you'll hear the familiar sound of a mandolin and an upright bass playing what sounds like bluegrass. But if you stop and listen for a while, you'll hear something more.



You'll hear all the music that passed through bluegrass during the years, as musicians from around the world passed through Appalachia, and then Appalachian musicians passed through the rest of the world. The genre collected musical imagery from places as far as Ireland and Africa.

Mandolin player Andy Straus calls his band's cross-cultural brand of music "stewed grass."

"It's a big pot of all sorts of influences," he said. It's an anthropological angle born of the mind of Straus, a world traveler and front man.

His love for music has taken him from Brazil to Africa to the Southern United States.

"With bluegrass music, in some of the traditions, it's just a bunch of guys sitting in a circle around a microphone and sharing their styles and their own culture," Straus said.

Hunker Down Bluegrass, a Winter Park-based band, will be playing for the first time in Steamboat Springs this weekend. The thing that sets them apart as a bluegrass band, beyond their interest in weaving all forms of music through the bluegrass format, is its "edge."

"‘Edge' is a word we use to describe the way we play," Straus said. "We like to maintain that through the show. We try to keep it hot. Even if it's a slow song, it can be hot."

The Hunker Down appeal, he said, is that intensity.

"You can't help but dance," Straus said. "It's upbeat. It's a party. We've been packing our bars full with people who dance hard and drink hard."




- Steamboat Pilot


Discography

our demo is posted on our website www.hunkerdownbluegrass.com and some of our music has been played on KCUV Colorado's Voice and also been covered by MTV for Uller Fest in Breckenridge, CO

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Our band is a mixing pot of cultured young men who love living in the mountians and having good times. After two years of performing together we have honed a sound that has a lot of edge and energy. It is a sound derived from many influences often described as a "Stewed Grass" which blends our individual and wild personalities. Old-time and bluegrass mixed with hard driving blues and rock describes our sound. Our concept is to provide a rocking show with an acoustic instrumentation.