On Scene: Steamboat music mainstays


— The band was The Spider Bags, and West Chapel Hill shut down when it played.

Live, The Spider Bags were inconsistent, rowdy and sometimes belligerent. They were drunk and demanded the audience get them to that point. Their brand of country-fueled dirt rock was alternately anthemic and tortured, the kind of songs you lift a glass to at the show and cry about later.

And every bartender, cocktail waitress and line cook in a four-block radius claimed The Spider Bags as his own.

It doesn't matter if it's a town known for its live music scene (like Chapel Hill) or a town that does its best to get an even marginally unique band hooked up to a PA (like Steamboat Springs). Every music scene needs a mascot.

Based on a March 1 performance at Old Town Pub, I'm naming American Relay the Spider Bags of Steamboat.

That's not because the duo's music is at all similar, or because the band members are nearly as boisterous on stage. They're not - which probably makes their chances of getting invited back to a Steamboat venue much better.

American Relay is just the only band I've been introduced to in the past six months that I've made an effort to go see every time it comes up in the music listings.

That could be because the band doesn't mind playing for three hours despite only having an album's worth of original material. It could be that sludgy blues music requires a sludgy state of mind, which is a natural fit for Steamboat whisky-drinkers and bar-goers.

It might just be that it's quaint to realize that after they've seen at least a half-dozen American Relay shows, Steamboat rock fans are finally figuring out that not all music with a drum set requires slam dancing.

But really, American Relay gets the mascot moniker because every song in the band's set is short and accessible, played honestly and genuinely by two guys who couldn't have found this brand of dirty blues music if they didn't love music to begin with.


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