Strumming banjos for benefit

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— The guys from the band 3-Wire organized something scary for last year's Jimmie Heuga Center benefit, and they're hoping to top it this year.

During an annual fund-raising event for the Heuga Center's multiple sclerosis research, 3-Wire invited four banjos to play at the same time during their performance.

"Banjorama," 3-Wire banjo and guitar player Dave Hanley said. "It was pretty funny."

Four banjos on stage at one time sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. If so, the punch line might be that they will try to get six banjos playing at this year's fund-raiser, which happens Saturday.

That may indeed be a joke.

Most people have probably heard of 3-Wire, which is made up of Hanley, bassist Bob Shaffer and Paul Geppert on guitar and mandolin. The band has been playing around Steamboat Springs in one form or another for the past six years.

Geppert was running an open mic night at Off the Beaten Path when the band formed.

"I convinced Dave to come down and play. We figured out pretty quickly that we could play a little bit and that we liked the same kind of music," Geppert said.

They learned a few songs to play together, found a bass player in Shaffer and eventually formed the band.

Since then, Hanley and Geppert, who started as guitar players, learned second instruments, turning the band into what Hanley likes to call a five-piece trio.

Though the band started as two guitars and bass, today Hanley and Geppert rarely play their guitars at the same time during one song.

During a practice session on Tuesday, the two musicians went back and forth to their cases to pick up different instruments every other song.

They played bluegrass numbers and some classic folk and rock songs.

The arrangement with the mandolin and banjos produces a unique version on some old classics.

"It's not straight-up bluegrass," Geppert said of 3-Wire's music. "It definitely has its roots in folk and there might be a little blues in there, too."

It is local music through and through, with all the musicians having lived and played music in Steamboat for several years.

Over the years, band members made connections with many of the other musicians in town, which will be evident at the benefit gig on Saturday.

While 3-Wire will play the opening set, the band will then invite musicians on stage to join them for a full-on acoustic jam. After that, the band Shop Rock will perform a set, which will lead into an electric jam session.

The benefit is from 8 to midnight at the Depot and costs $15 to get in. The event will be catered by the Steamboat Smokehouse and the Steamboat Meat and Seafood Co. Most of the proceeds for the event will go to the Heuga Center through Jimmie Heuga's Snow Express for MS, which is an annual ski event that will come to Steamboat on March 2.

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