Yay, another great local blues show! After a full day of old-timey cars and great live music, it gets tougher to be enthusiastic about yet another band. This ‘festival fatigue’, which at the car show this Saturday was rather mild (it was only a small event, with only one stage and 6 bands, after all), still would have made it harder to say much about the 5th act of the day, except that this weekend’s 5th act was a particularly dynamic one- Bad Brad and the Fat Cats. As the name suggests, this is a blues band, a very good blues band.
“Bad” Brad Stivers himself is a young man (all of 20yrs old) currently living in Greeley, a rather agriculturally oriented smallish town northeast of Denver. In person, he’s a quiet, pleasant guy, and seems always happy to talk about how great his band members are. Meeting him, one would not expect him to make the sorts of sounds his genre of music relies on, but get him on stage with a microphone and his band, and he’s a changed man. Suddenly he is channeling the great traditions of blues and funk and creating his own chapter in this classic musical tradition.
While much of the blues scene is made up of covers of older songs, Brad seems to enjoy developing his own twists on old favorites, something I heartily approve. His songs come across as fresh new blues, not just a recital of the old classics. At the same time, Brad’s music is not so far off from the old classics as to lose their bluesy traditional core. This is blues as a living genre, not blues as an antique being revived by historical societies and museums.
If it were just Brad carrying his shows, he’d be nowhere near as successful, no matter how powerful his voice might be. But of course, the Fat Cats are a band fully capable of holding their own. Nic Clark is a successful harmonica player who has performed with quite a few other acts, including Another Kind of Magick, another successful local blues band that appeared at New West Fest earlier this year.
Brad’s guitarist, Erik Boa, comes from Boulder and has been the ‘Boa’ of the successful local blues band Boa and the Constrictors, which Erik established back in the 1980’s. Boa and the Constrictor have released several albums, and continue to perform lots of live shows throughout the Denver/ Northern Colorado area.
Jodie Woodward, Brad’s bassist, has been the bassist for Boa and the Constrictors, and her booking agency is part of the behind-the-scenes machinery for both Boa and the Constrictors and Bad Brad and the Fat Cats. According to her facebook page, she learned to play bluesy bass in New Orleans over 25 years ago, and if I were looking for really cool music folks in the Colorado music scene, this lady would no doubt be an incredible musician to chat with. Last, but not least, Brad’s drummer Peter Gregory is a drum instructor currently living in Evergreen, and had had several decades of experience as a drummer prior to playing as one of the Fat Cats. (My camera hated the lighting around the stage too much for me to get any half-way decent shots of Mr. Gregory, but I had lots of fun watching him assemble and disassemble his drum kit, and spent a lot of this show watching his drumsticks.)
With such a great line-up of musicians, Bad Brad and the Fat Cats is well-prepared to take the blues world by storm. Brad and his band in fact are competing quite successfully for the honor of representing the Colorado Blues Society for the International Blues Challenge in Memphis this year. They will be playing one last show, the final round, this Sunday (the 16th) at the Buffalo Rose, in Golden, along with the other finalist band, The Jack Hadley Band. The winner goes to Memphis. For a young man who was not even born yet when many of his band-mates started playing their instruments, Brad is turning into an amazing new singer. If you get a chance to see any of Brad’s band on stage, I’d imagine they’d all put on a great show, but definitely check out Bad Brad and the Fat Cats and the great sounds these folks cook up together. Oh, and bring your dancing shoes.