Studio Bee is a showcase for local, original bands
When: 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21
Where: Studio Bee in the Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Admission: Free; 477-2121, pikespeakcenter.com
Wind up the musical Jack in the box known as the Showcase at Studio Bee and you never know what will pop out.
Could be head-banging reggae punk. Could be bluesy rock. Or could be alt-country Americana.
As a matter of fact, during Thursday night’s showcase, you’ll encounter all three.
That diversity and flair for the unexpected has built the Pikes Peak Center’s Studio Bee into one of the more buzzed about music venues in the region. Started in 2008, the showcase was devised as a launching pad for the area’s finest original bands. We’re not talking about the classic rockers who dominate our club scene with rousing renditions of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” We’re talking about local musicians who write their own songs and record albums.
The Pikes Peak Center presents these groups free on the third Thursday of each month. More than 200 and counting.
This month’s showcase features local favorites Murder Hat, Out to Dry and the J. Miller Band.
Murder Hat will kick off the concert with a cranked up set that might just get folks dancing at the Department of Revenue next store. Lead singer and guitarist Luke Blanton describes the band as “punk mixed with reggae and a little bit of ska in there where we can.”
“We’re not rock stars,” he says. “We’re working-class guys who want to have fun and entertain people. When they’re dancing and smiling, that’s what it’s about.”
Murder Hat recently played a gig performing at half time during a Pikes Peak Derby Dames bout at the City Auditorium, and Blanton said the young crowd ate it up.
“At least we didn’t get somebody’s grandma mad, you know?”
The J. Miller Band will follow with a mellow blend of new country and Americana, all built around thoughtful and evocative lyrics by founder Jason Miller. He draws from his childhood in a small town in northwestern Indiana, where the bars got crowded when the steel mills closed.
Heartache runs through their music, as you’d expect in country tunes. But don’t call them country.
“We don’t like to say country,” Miller says. “We’re really not country. We have definite influences from old country.”
Certainly, the Americana label fits more comfortably, and their diverse fan base speaks to their eclectic styles.
J. Miller, which has played in various configurations at clubs around the region for two decades, may be reaching for the next step.
“We try not to play many bars anymore,” Miller says. “That sounds snotty, but you know what I mean?”
Instead, they’re trying to focus on building a place on the festival circuit and improving their music.
“Stardom — you can keep that,” Miller says. “Make a living off playing music is like playing in the NBA. It’s a super long shot. What I’m hoping for is just to have a really good band, and that people take notice. We’ve already come so much further than I thought possible.”
Closing the night will be the rock group Out to Dry.
Founder Ryan Lloyd traces the genesis of the group to a night doing laundry in Manitou Springs three years ago. He was in his car, waiting on the dryer, playing his guitar, when a young man knocked on his window.
“Hey, my girlfriend’s dad is looking to form a band,” he said.
So Lloyd gave the stranger his number, a few months later, Stevie Ray Vaughn disciple RickyD called him, and the two went on to build Out to Dry, a bluesy, seriously funkified rock band.
“Our inside joke is that we’re rock or roll, either one or the other,” Lloyd says, laughing.
You may notice that these guys not only make fine melodies, but they have a distinctive sense of rhythm.
“We all started out as drummers,” Lloyd says. “Our rhythm section’s on board for sure.”
Out to Dry is a regular at the Ancient Mariner in Manitou, and they have big dreams.
Lloyd talks about worldwide tours and quitting day jobs.
“If we could manage to all be able to live comfortably, not meaning mansions or anything,” he says. “I think as long as we could keep playing, we’d be perfectly content. But if you know anyone that wants to throw a million our way, we’d oblige.”