Sam Ayer brings his powerful vocals to The Boathouse Pub most Wednesdays.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Sam Ayer brings his powerful vocals to The Boathouse Pub most Wednesdays.

Ayer gives bar gigs soul

Singer-guitarist brings varied styles, vocal power to weekly shows

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If you go

What: Sam Ayer, singer/guitarist

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Boathouse Pub, 609 Yampa St.

Cost: Free

Call: 879-4797

— Performing popular hits and obscure singer-songwriter songs in local bars wasn't necessarily part of Sam Ayer's work plan when he moved to Steamboat Springs from Boulder in June 2008.

But when one of his first jobs in town offered that opportunity, Ayer took it.

"He got started actually as my bouncer when we first opened," said Joe Schuetz, general manager at The Boathouse Pub, where Ayer plays most Wednesday nights. "He mentioned that he played guitar, and I gave him a shot and he rocked it, and he's been playing with me ever since."

That turned into what is now Irish Night, a regular setup featuring Ayer on guitar and Guinness at the bar. The weekly show earned Ayer a performance spot last winter at Gondola Pub & Grill, a gig he'll reclaim twice a week this ski season. During each of his bar concerts, Ayer puts out a variety of songs that can include honky-tonk tunes by Hank Williams or hip-hop cuts by Outkast.

Ayer's variety of song styles comes from his parents' record collection - which was heavy on jazz, folk and blues - and his family's taste for live music, he said. The result is a "varied but very contemporary" mix that seems to go over well with the crowd at The Boathouse, Schuetz said.

"It's good music, people get behind it and it keeps an upbeat attitude at the bar," Schuetz said. Ayer said he's working on some original tunes to add to his stock of covers.

The New England native started out as a drummer when he was 6 years old. Guitar came years later, when Ayer found himself looking for a way to occupy his mind.

"My father passed away after my freshman year in college, so it was kind of like idle hands; I was looking for something to do. So I started to play guitar for eight to 10 hours a day," he said. Those hours of practice and a lifelong intake of live music helped Ayer understand how to keep an audience interested, and define the "huge difference between being a musician and being a performer," he said.

Ayer honed his stage presence during a five-month backpacking stay in Thailand in 2003, he said.

"I was doing lead vocals with an all-Thai backup band in a little village up in the mountains four nights a week," he said, adding that a circle of friends in the Thai art world got him some gigs opening for some of the Southeast Asia country's biggest music acts.

The singer-guitarist keeps his one-man show a little more low-key in Steamboat Springs, but Ayer hopes a soulful touch on happy hour and late night playlists will earn him a chance to play music full-time this winter.

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

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