Steamboat Springs If you can recognize your favorite Johnny Cash tune after it has been threaded through the punk rock guitars of Buzz Cut Sheep, it may be that you are listening too hard.
That is exactly what the four-member band doesn't want you to do. More than an audience, you are their playthings. It's time to laugh or get off the dance floor.
The band covers songs by Cash, Motorhead, Bad Religion, Meat Puppets, Southern Culture on the Skids and the Flying Burrito Brothers, but the covers are "heavily altered."
Fast, jumping punk songs are slowed and saddened into country ballads and the country songs are thrown out of loud guitars, backed up with the steady beat of Matthew Craig playing the 17-gallon electric gutbucket bass.
It's the kind of music that a guy from the South (Craig) and a guy from Washington state (Paul Campbell), a surf drummer (Russ Duplessis) and an East Coast punk fan (Brock Webster) would make if thrown into a small garage together for weeks and months, mixing their sounds and musical beliefs.
All in their mid-20s and early-30s, the Buzz Cut Sheep are quasi-respectable members of the community -- Webster is the owner of Orange Peel Bicycles; Craig is the shop teacher at Steamboat Springs High School; Campbell is a machinist for Moots and Duplessis drives a semitrailer.
None of them are quitting their day jobs to become musicians. They just want to have a good time.
But over the past month, something surprising has happened.
While twisting covers of the Meat Puppets and Bad Religion, they discovered a sound unique to the four musicians in their tiny garage. And it sounds good.
"In the last month, it's really started to come together," Webster said.
Not yet used to the stage as they practice for their first official gig outside of the art opening/house party scene, they play with the head-down modesty of talent uncomfortable with compliments.
Nevertheless, they will be thrown on stage to surprise Steamboat's noodle-rock-numbed ears tonight at the Old Town Pub.
Webster met Campbell almost immediately upon moving to Steamboat in 1995 through the town's tight-knit biking community.
They both played in bands in high school and college but didn't get serious about making music until they met the other members of their band about two years ago.
The band chose their name after a Chase Oriental Rug lecture on Afghan carpets. They became fascinated when the speaker told them about the country's national sport -- a nomadic herder's version of polo -- called buzkashi.
In buzkashi, a headless goat carcass is placed in the center of a circle and surrounded by the players of two opposing teams. The object of the game is to get control of the carcass and bring it to the scoring area.
At the time, it seemed like the perfect name for their band, but world events made references to Afghanistan less humorous.
"We already had a few songs with the word 'buzkashi' in them," Webster said. So they changed their name to the similar-sounding Buzz Cut Sheep. "I think the name represents the kind of rural Americana rock we portray."
Buzz Cut Sheep practices a couple of times a week when truck-driving drummer Duplessis is in town. Their song list grows weekly with a mix of originals and covers.
Webster's songs are often written from snippets of overheard conversation in restaurants or coffeeshops.
"I'll hear someone say something, completely out of context, and I'll think, 'That would be a great song lyric,'" he said.
Other songs come from the hobo lifestyle he witnessed in many of the towns he lived, songs about being free by following the trains.
Perhaps Buzz Cut Sheep's biggest musical accomplishment is simply playing in the presence of a Duplessis family drum set.
Duplessis' grandfather and his father were musicians, Webster said, and the drum set was handed down to him after seeing the stage of the Ed Sullivan Show and Elvis' behind.
"It has good juju," Webster said. "And (the black and white checkered drum kit) is super retro."
Audience members who come to see the drums or the band, shouldn't expect anything too serious, Webster said. "They can't mind being made fun of from the stage -- and it might get a little rowdy."