Steamboat student, grads to play Denver Battle of the Bands |

Steamboat student, grads to play Denver Battle of the Bands

Nicole Inglis

On the Fritz, which includes, counterclockwise from front center, Katie Ross, Jack Massey, Collin McNellis and Max Shoffner, rehearsed all week in Steamboat to prepare for Denver Battle of the Bands on Sunday.

— On Wednesday afternoon in a cramped but cozy studio space above a warehouse, four teenagers spent more than six hours thumping away on their instruments, trying not to let the anticipation get to them.

They did the same thing Tuesday and Thursday, and they'll do it again Friday.

"Don't let them hold you back," sang Steamboat Springs High School senior Katie Ross in a still unnamed original song they call the "Bottle Song."

"You own the road, now take your way."

The song is "about following what you want and not going back to your encyclopedia for direction," explained bassist Max Shoffner.

And that's what they plan to do Sunday afternoon, when the group, called On the Fritz, plays in a Denver Battle of the Bands at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom.

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It's currently winter break for Shoffner and drummer Collin McNellis, who are freshmen at the University of Colorado at Denver. Guitarist Jack Massey also is on break and traveled home to Steamboat from school at the University of Vermont.

And for Ross, the band's vocalist and keyboard player, it's finals week at the high school.

For all them, it's just a few days until the biggest opportunity the reggae rock quartet has had.

In the club-sized Denver music venue, the band will have 30 minutes to impress the audience of hundreds, who votes on their favorite of the 15 bands and will send two of them to the finals at a later date.

"I'm stoked," Ross said Wednesday. "We're bringing a bunch of kids down from Steamboat. I'm excited. It's like we have groupies."

Massey, Shoffner and Ross have been playing together for about a year, recording a few songs on their computers and playing a graduation party. When Shoffner went off to school in the fall, he met McNellis in the dorms and brought him back to Steamboat for break to practice with the band.

For months, the trio of Steamboat students has been spread across the country. But that didn't stop them from emailing back and forth, recording and writing songs for one another to learn and add to.

"We come up with a lot of really fun music," Ross said. "We collaborate really well."

The rock, reggae and jam style of the boys is complemented by Ross' clear, silky voice and indie rock influences.

"It makes for a really unique-sounding situation," McNellis said.

While the quartet is all confident smiles in the comfort of their temporary studio — offered up by local band Duckin' Bullits — Shoffner said he thinks nerves will come into play when they take the stage for what will be their first real gig.

"I think our biggest fear is not being performers and being just musicians," Shoffner said. "There's a difference between going up there and playing your music really well and putting on a show, to be an act and entertain.

"A lot of that comes with experience, but we're going to do the best we can."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 907-871-4204 or email


Find the band on Facebook (On the Fritz) and listen to more music there.

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