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"Wasabi making a bigger name for itself"

Local band aims to quit day job
Wasabi making a bigger name for itself
Aaron Rognstad
Issue date: 9/21/07

What started five years ago as a garage band playing house parties has now morphed into a statewide name playing gigs across the Front Range. And with their latest album, "The Border," hitting stores, the six members of Wasabi make their way home to Mishawaka Amphitheater tonight.

Voted Westword's Best Jam Band/Improv Band in Colorado in 2007, Wasabi was formed in Fort Collins by Brian Collins and Sean Waters, but soon became a six-piece ensemble made up of two electric guitars, keyboards, saxophone, bass and drums.

A mix of rock, psychedelic blues and funky jazz, Wasabi draws upon influences like the Beatles, The Band, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Grateful Dead, Ornette Coleman, Widespread Panic and Led Zeppelin.

"Along with our own material, we've covered the Rolling Stones, Nirvana and Ween to name a few," said 30 year-old saxophonist Tom Gray. "We like to get in there and mix it up, you know what I mean."

But it's the extemporization that makes Wasabi stand apart from the plethora of local bands.

Every Wasabi show is significantly different than the next as the band constantly shuffles through manifold genres displaying improvisation with complex guitar and saxophone solos over rhythmic grooves and chords.

Aside from their well-known improvisational music, Wasabi has found their trademark sound on their latest record.

"Not until this last year have we really got into the sound that is defining Wasabi right now," said Brian Collins, 27, who plays keyboards and shares vocals. "We all got together as friends and came a long way musically by having multiple members contribute to the songwriting, and the new album reflects that."

Since the album release, Wasabi has played gigs and festivals in Wyoming, Utah and Indiana.

"If we continue to play and reach more people, I see us playing Red Rocks in five years, though I'd be just as happy playing with these cats in my back yard, if that's the case," said Gray, who graduated from CSU in 2000 and works as an engineer for Sun Microsystems. "I wouldn't mind taking an extended leave of absence from the corporate world to earn a living as a musician."

The entire band has a nine-to-fives ranging from graphic designing to taxi-cab dispatching. Yet, across the board, they expressed the desire to play music full-time.

"I want to tour around the country and do what I love," said 33 year-old bass player Eric Skjerseth, who manages an apartment complex in Fort Collins.

"If we're right where we are in five years, I'll be happy, but if we could be doing this full-time, it would be a bonus," said 29 year-old drummer Marshall Van Stone, a graphic artist and CSU alum.

While the band expresses a desire to grow a fan base, they are definitely not in it for the money, they said.

"I hope we're just still playing," said 32 year-old rhythm guitarist and vocalist Ehren Crumpler. "We're musicians playing music, and that's all that matters to me."

Wasabi will be playing the Mishawaka Amphitheater tonight with the 3 Peas and DJ Chordata at 8p.m. in a benefit concert for the Sunset Community Project to raise money to build homes for poverty-stricken families in Central America. - The Rocky Montain Collegian


While most of us don't know what it's like to grow up a stone's throw from the Colorado Rockies, the Fort-Collins based band, Wasabi, can croon all day long about the alpine life. This mountain-bred sextet feels right at home in the intimate venues around their home-state, where they fuse the far-out sounds of psychaedlic rock with rootsy blues, earthy folk and a taste for sprawling jam sessions.

Blind all his life, singer and keyboardist, Brian Collins commands a special stage presence in the live performance, as he channels his handicap into a sort of "extra-sensory projection" that takes the shape of sharp, soulful lyrics and powerful, booming vocals. Truly though, it's the collective presence of the band, harmonizing and improvising, and coming together with a refreshing purity of purpose that resonates with their growing fanbase (Interesting sidenote- Wasabi cites "an insatiable desire t0 create beautiful music" as the inspiration behind their inception).

While it's currently hard to catch Wasabi live outside of Colorado, the band has been generous enough to provide us with some footage of their live performances. Of course, many Relix readers may already be aquainted with them, as they have been featured in the mag. and on the website since winning the JamOff competition a few months ago. - Relix.com

"Jammed Online"

With the country bursting at the seams with new music it is hard for normal people to find a band that is truly unique. Wasabi stands out amongst this crowded music scene as an extremely talented band whom have quickly become one of Colorado's favorite groups. - Jammed Online Music Magazine


Wasabi has acquired a solid local following providing listeners with an 'acid blues dance' experience that attracts a wide audience. - Rocky Mountain Collegian


They show me a bit of what they mean as they really start to play: Their songs flow from one theme and rhythm smoothly into another, a well-balanced funk-rock mix using Collins' exceptional piano chops as both fulcrum and springboard. If the turn-arounds weren't so tightly executed, one might think the music was entirely improvised. - Rocky Mountain Bullhorn


The deep grooving music is only enhanced by the band's chemistry and intensely enjoyable stage presence. - Scene Magazine

"Collegian 2"

Borrowing its name from a Japanese horseradish, Wasabi is a band that leaves a fiery impression on any live music lover's taste buds. Playing a mix of jazz, blues, funk, trance and country (all with 'a backbone of ass kicking rock 'n' roll'), Wasabi offers a spicy new sound. - Rocky Mountain Collegian

"Colorado Jam Scene CD Review on The Border"

The Border is the newest CD release from Ft. Collins based Wasabi. This CD contains a few very good songs that display the band’s ability to delve into many musical sounds. From the familiar mountain jam feeling of “Grew Up in the Mountains”, to the jazzy “Girl from Colorado”, Wasabi is able to mix a variety of influences into their writing. The musical nstrumentation is a nice mix of guitar, key and sax…The highlight of The Border is the solos that pop up through out the CD. - coloradojamscene.com

"Jammed Online CD Review of The Border"

Wasabi, a little like its namesake, packs a pretty good punch. The new release "The Border" is just that....a punch.

From the melodic first song, "Grew up in The Mountains", which gets your attention with the smooth catchy tune. The songs steadily increase tempo and pack more of a punch with some fast guitar work from Sean Waters. (Tom’s) saxophone playing is magic, and is certain to get you swaying and moving.

The CD is a good listening mix of relaxing yet upbeat feel-good songs. Wasabi shows strong musical knowledge and solid songwriting.

As far as if this is a good listener---it's been in the deck now for a week straight and I'm enjoying it as great driving music and a chill background sound. Wasabi shows plenty of Colorado groove, and I look forward to more.
- jammedonline.com

"Encore - RMC"

If there’s a local band that presents itself as Colorado rock laureates, it is hardworking six-piece Wasabi. The group, which lays down goodtime, dance-ready, ‘70s-obsessed blues rock, will easily spin ‘round the hips of anyone with an appetite for jammy, heartfelt, improv rock. - Rocky Mountain Chronicle


The Border, 2007 (full length studio album)
Greetings, 2003 (Full length studio album)



Winner of 2007 Westword Music Showcase Award for best Jam/Improv band in Colorado

Runner-up Relix magazine's Dec/Jan Jam-Off competition. Currently featured on relix.com video and interview sections.

“Case in point: Wasabi. Talent? These guys piss talent... they have chemistry, solid upbeat grooves and outstanding musicianship.” -The Rocky Mountain Bullhorn

Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, Wasabi’s music is a unique mix of ass-kickin’ rock-and-roll, psychedelic blues, and funky jazz. A six-piece with two electric guitars, keyboards, saxophone, bass and drums, Wasabi produces a full and exciting contemporary rock sound: live Wasabi is a sweet and spicy mix of driving rhythms, compelling beats, soaring guitar leads, and passionately sung vocal hooks, harmonies, and melodies. Sonically influenced by Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, and Widespread Panic, Wasabi draws heavily from the song-writing craftsmanship of Tom Petty and The Band to make for a gripping, cohesive, and highly danceable musical performance. With a philosophy that incorporates the crowd-pleasing sensibility of classic funk with the heart-wrenching spirit of the blues, Wasabi is quickly becoming THE rock-and-roll band to see in Colorado.

Blind from birth, keyboardist Brian Collins possesses an unnaturally powerful voice. Lead guitarist Sean Waters and rhythm guitarist Ehren Crumpler both sing lead as well, and together the three of them create awe-inspiring harmonies. Drummer Marshall Van Stone relentlessly drives the band and music forward with powerfully unique drumming, while Eric “Bulldog” Skjerseth holds it all together with heart-pounding bass guitar. To top it all off saxophonist Tom Gray interweaves beautiful melodic structures, vocal harmonies, and hard charging solos demanded by the driving rock-and-roll.

Wasabi’s second full-length album entitled ”The Border” was released in April of 2007. Born, bred, and based out of Fort Collins, Wasabi has absorbed the diversity of strong music in Colorado and made their mark as a genuine Colorado rock band. Following in the footsteps of bands like Leftover Salmon, Big Head Todd, and the String Cheese Incident, Wasabi now carries the torch of the great Colorado rock bands. From the desert to the city, “The Border” is truly an exciting representative of great Colorado Rock n’Roll.

Wasabi Has Shared The Stage With:
Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, RAQ, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Ekoostik Hookah, The Slip, Zilla (w/ Michael Travis of the String Cheese Incident), Rebirth Brass Band, The Fareed Haque Group, Eric McFadden Trio, JGB with Melvin Seals, Global Funk, Smokestack, Phix, Mary and Mars, Shakedown Street, and Green Lemon. At festivals: WAR, The Motet, Kyle Hollingsworth, Rose Hill Drive, Doug Kershaw, Bob Haworth, Mel Tillis, and Nashville legend Jack Green.

Venues Wasabi Has Played (Amongst many others):
The Aggie Theatre, Fort Collins, CO; The Mishawaka Amphitheater, Bellvue, CO; The Fox Theatre, Boulder,CO; The Starlight Theatre (now called Hodi’s Half Note), Fort Collins, CO; Cervante’s Masterpiece Ballroom, Denver, CO; New West Fest, Fort Collins, CO; Fort Collins’ Earth Day Festival; Quixote’s True Blue, Denver, CO; Dulcinea’s 100th Monkey, Denver, CO; The Bayou House, Lucerne, CO; The Zebra Cocktail Lounge, Bozeman, MT; Shoreline Brewery, Michigan City, IN; The Lander Bar, Lander, WY.