If you go
What: The Insomniacs, blues
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ghost Ranch Saloon, 56 Seventh St.
Cost: $10 in advance, $15 at the door
Call: 879-9898; advance tickets available at Ghost Ranch Saloon, All That Jazz, Pioneer Spirits and Ghost Ranch Saloon
Steamboat Springs Everyone in The Insomniacs can play a killer blues solo.
But that's not what the members of the Portland, Ore., four-piece band are interested in doing.
For The Insomniacs, who play Saturday at the Ghost Ranch Saloon, a solid blues performance is about functioning as a band and bringing out individual talents in the form of a song - not a solo.
"First of all, we've got great soloists, no question about it," bassist Dean Mueller said. "But a lot of more popular blues right now is about some front guy shredding on a guitar, and the song is more about the fact that this guy is a great guitar player. I think in a lot of ways, lyrics and so forth haven't been emphasized as much as they used to."
The Insomniacs take their cues from blues made in the 1940s and '50s and steer away from the guitar-shredding electric style a listener might find on mainstream radio, Mueller said.
"A lot of that has to do with the rhythms and the melodies that are played and the way the instruments are used," he said. "It's kind of more about the song and the band than it is individual solos."
Listening to older-style blues wasn't a purposeful decision, Mueller said. Lead singer and songwriter Vyasa Dodson was a fan of electric blues guitar powerhouses such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton before he got into artists featured on old Atlantic and OKeh label recordings. It just happened to work out that Mueller, keyboardist Alex Shakeri and drummer Dave Melyan liked playing new songs in an old tradition.
In the three years the Insomniacs have been playing out, the band has released two full-length albums. The group captured a nomination for best new artist debut at the 2008 Blues Music Awards and won best contemporary blues act from the Cascade Blues Association in 2007.
Part of the acclaim could come from The Insomniacs' renewed focus on blues lyrics and tight arrangements, Mueller said.
"I think it creates a lot of interest, for me. What I think it does is, it keeps people from getting bored. We have to entertain somebody for three hours at a time, and when you've got a band and you've got arrangements, it's a bit more of a show," he said.
If everything goes according to plan, the audience will be singing along before the song is over.