Free concert features country-funk band

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— They're not rockabilly. They're not country. They're not rock. But they're not funk.

The Brethren Fast trio is a concoction of "electrified hillbilly funk."

"Lots of the rockabilly cats don't like that people think we're rockabilly," said Don Messina, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band. "It's a countryish funk. We have a lot of songs about fast cars and fast women."

For the last weekend of Tequiza Rocks the 'Boat free concert series, this Denver-based band will give Steamboat a taste of their hillbilly funk attitudes and style.

Six and a half years ago, the Messina brothers, Don and Mik, were itching to get out of the jobs and bands that held them down, more than a thousand miles apart. It didn't take them long before the strum of a guitar or standing up to the mic took precedence over money.

They wrote music and songs and sent each other tapes back and forth for months until Mik missed the Rockies and headed East toward home.

"He was playing heavy rock and I was in a '80s band ... playing stuff like The Cure and INXS," Don said.

After too many drummers, they settled with the talented Nate Nicholson, who played in a band from Winter Park that had recently split.

Now the trio was complete.

"All three of us are just getting in there and giving 'em hell," Don said.

Although Don admits he wouldn't like to be the third wheel of a brother band, Nicholson said he isn't afraid of putting them in their place.

They've done the West. They've done the East. But the farther south they look, the hotter it gets. Arizona and Oklahoma are becoming steady hot spots.

"It costs so much money and you don't make any money," Don said of touring. "We've been trying to make baby steps, making money, making contacts."

Don said Brethren Fast has helped the Denver local music scene become more of a support system. Giving a little and taking a little is the way of the world even the music world.

"We take care of them, they do the same," Don said of exchanging houses when bands are in different cities around the country. "We've opened up for a lot of strange and different acts, but that's what's cool. We're all just about helping each other out."

They, like many other new bands in America, have learned from the mistakes of others that major record labels are more concerned with the bottom line than they are with the spotlight.

"Right now, we have control over all our stuff. But if it was a good enough deal ... ," Don said. "With things like Napster, anymore, I don't know if you need a big label."

While the band isn't digging the major record label scene, their fourth independent CD soon to be released from their Knock You on Your Ass label has obviously done them well.

Don said they order about 2,500 to 5,000 CDs when the band makes its first release and always have to reorder.

"We're not kagillionaires, but we've sold out of every single copy and had to reorder more," Don said.

Punching in a time card every day is a lifestyle Don has lived through and would never want to revisit. But playing with his brother and a great drummer sometimes isn't enough. Brethren Fast is famous for bringing guests on stage and jamming original or cover tunes; in fact, they thrive on it, Don said.

"I'll do it forever, even if this band breaks up and I know my brother feels that way, too," Don said. "Even if I'm playing Johnny Cash covers for the rest of my life. I enjoy my job; that's what makes it worth it."

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