Boulder band Alpenglow
’s members are all current or former University of Colorado students who have been playing in various combinations for the past year or so, including jam sessions at the CU Jam Society.
“At some point we decided we have really good chemistry together [and] we should get a band together,” says bassist Caleb O’Neill.
The five-piece jam-oriented band — composed of O’Neill, drummer Tyler Tullar and guitarists Brian Heekin, Chris Sprunt and Jude Shaw — played its first official show in April. And tonight, Alpenglow is playing the Fox Theatre for its first headlining show. The event is called "Back to School" and includes two other bands with CU members: the Dick Nixons and the Rocky Coasts.
Tullar says the band’s biggest influences thus far are King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
, the Grateful Dead
, and “all those old jam bands.”
“Brian [Heekin] is amazing at leading jams and leading us into really cool stuff while we're jamming,” Tullar notes. “We like to take songs and start playing them and not have an end goal, just see where they end up going.”
Sprunt says he and his bandmates have bonded over a shared love of the natural beauty of music and the feeling of togetherness that can happen in the middle of an improvised jam, when no one knows what might happen next. “You have that linkage through music,” he explains. “It feels really good when that works out in a good way. Improvisation is where some of the coolest-sounding music comes from. The freedom to express yourself in a musical setting is a big component of that.”
Sprunt is a big blues fan, and says that improvisation is an important quality in the soul of that genre. Jam music, he adds, draws from the spirit of blues and adds more intricate chord progressions. “Our sound comes from that natural draw to that jammy kind of rock,” he says.
Shaw has studied jazz at some length, and that influence comes into the band’s sound, as well. “Between the three guitarists alone, we have the Grateful Dead, psychedelic rock, the blues and the jazz,” he says. “It’s really come together as something special and just crazy. … It’s been really cool mixing jazz licks into blues and blues licks into Dead stuff.”
Aspenglow approaches its music with an ensemble spirit. It doesn’t have a traditional frontman, and individual members share vocal duties, trade off instruments and bring in new ones on occasion, including banjo, harmonica and bağlama, a Turkish lute-type instrument. They like the collective approach so far, because it’s more democratic in spirit.
“What happens a lot of the time is we will come to the band with a cool idea or a cool song we should cover, or just any kind of new song idea,” Tullar says. “Whoever has the ability to sing it will just step up and sing it.”
The band has a half-dozen solid originals in its repertoire, and it’s also playing covers from a wide variety of artists — King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Led Zeppelin
, the Allman Brothers and Amy Winehouse. “We all have really solid music tastes, as well,” O’Neill adds. “No one is super specific in listening to one area. Everyone brings great ideas to the band.”
Although it’s only been a few months or so, Alpenglow has played house parties, venues in Denver such as Globe Hall, and bars in Boulder. The Fox Theatre is a big opportunity for the band.
“We’ve been playing a ton this summer,” Tullar says. “In the future, we're looking to book bigger and bigger venues…and then eventually go out of state.”
Alpenglow hasn’t released a proper album or EP yet, but Heekin promises the band is practicing and writing in anticipation of recording some of its originals. "We are really going to start writing a lot more,” he says. “I’ve been writing a lot of music on my own before the band, so we're excited to hop into the studio and do some recording.”
Alpenglow, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 18, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street, Boulder. Tickets are $15-$18.