Aimee Bushong plays an aggressive guitar coupled with equally aggressive lyrics and a voice that rocks forward and back from the stage.
She gets immediate attention for the sexual nature of songs such as "Christian Boy," but "a lot of my lyrics aren't sexual," she said. "Like the song 'I don't want to sing tonight' is about the struggles of trying to make it as a musician, and 'Bacon and Eggs' is about not having sex."
"Bacon and Eggs" tells the story of something that happened at The Inferno years ago when Bushong lived in Steamboat Springs. In the song, she dances all night and gets a ride home from a cute guy, but instead of inviting him in, she decides to make herself a late-night, greasy breakfast alone.
"Everything I write about is something I've gone through, and a lot of people can relate. I don't really hold back when I'm writing," Bushong said.
A song usually starts when she gets a phrase stuck in her head, like "Bacon and Eggs." The phrase has a rhythm as she repeats it, "then I'll sit down with my guitar."
To look at her now, the female front in the Aimee Bushong band, it's hard to picture her in Steamboat Springs, suffering from cabin fever and picking up a guitar for the first time.
It was the winter of 1996 and she bought an old guitar at the pawn shop and bought a "teach yourself guitar" tape.
"I was classically trained on the piano, so I had the musical theory, but the guitar is completely different. At least with the piano, you know which note you are hitting," she said. "It was a great learning process."
As soon as she could string together a couple of chords, Bushong started attending open mic nights at the now-closed Murphy's Exchange and the Tugboat Grill & Pub, she said.
"I would meet people, mostly guys, who wanted to jam, and every time I would ask them to show me something new," she said. "I was very eager to learn."
Now, when people ask her if she is a good guitar player, she says, "I can hold my own."
"I'm no Stevie Ray Vaughn, but I'm a female guitar player who can play lead. Usually where there is a female-fronted band, she is just strumming."
Bushong's CD "Bacon and Eggs" came out three weeks ago. She is coming to town this weekend to play her new music for old friends.
She will play with drummer Jeff Youngman and bass player Sean Plumb, veteran Denver musicians.
She wants Steamboat to know she has been working hard in Denver since she left town.
"It will mean so much for people to come and see how much I've grown," she said.
Audience members will recognize themselves in songs such as "Going back to Steamboat Springs," which she included on her new album.
The song is about the first time she tried to leave Steamboat.
She moved to California, back to the town where she went to college. "Something I don't recommend,"she said. "I really missed Steamboat. It was the most depressing year of my life. I wrote the song while driving back to Steamboat."
The message of the song is that living in a mountain town is a blessing and a curse. "It's a beautiful place to live, and there are a million things to do, but it's hard to make a living and sometimes gets a little claustrophobic."
Then you move away to a big city where no one seems to care about you and no one has time to get together, she said. "I always think 'I'm going back to Steamboat Springs.'"
After her time in California, Bushong returned to Steamboat with her mind set on a musical goal. She took a weekly Wednesday night gig at the Steamboat Brewery and Tavern (now Mahogany Ridge) and made her first solo acoustic CD, recorded by Scott Singer.
In the summer of 2001, she left Steamboat for Denver.
"I was going to bust my (butt) and get into a band and make a CD," Bushong said. "All that is starting to come together. Hard work definitely pays off.
"I get frustrated, but my friend keeps reminding me that playing music is a journey."