In May of 2007, in a dark little club that lies in the shadows of Denver's Coors Field, an impromptu gig gave birth to one of Denver's most innovative up and coming bands. It was an important moment for drummer Eric Low and guitarist James Dumm as it was the night that the Fox Street All Stars were born. Childhood friends, Low and Dumm have played in bands together since they were in middle school, but after that gig at Herbï¿½s the two saw a blueprint for a future of working and playing together. It didn't take long before they recruited Dumm's college buddy, Jonathan "Skippy" Huvard to bring his soulful, whiskey soaked vocals and frenetic stage presence into the fold and with the release of their blistering debut, Welcome to Mighty Pleasinï¿½, the band has captured the raw energy of their live show for the world to hear.
From the beginning of their time together, this core trio has been profoundly influenced by the culture and music of the south and, specifically, New Orleans. Since they first got serious about the band a yearly pilgrimage to the New Orleans Jazz Fest to bond over late nights jam sessions and bellies full of beer of crawfish has been practically mandatory. "A lot of serious band decisions have been made on our yearly Jazz Fest visit," said Low who considers the New Orleans style of drumming to be at the core of his playing due to years studying under the legendary Crescent City drummer Stanton Moore of Galactic and Garage A Trois. For the last two years The Fox Street All Stars have had the honor of not only headlining the official Galactic After Show Party, but also of having Moore sit-in with them for several numbers. The New Orleans vibe is a big part of what fuels the bands energy day in and day out.
As they cut their teeth in bars and clubs around Denver, the core Fox Street trio was supplemented by a rotating cast of heavy hitting Denver musicians and it wasn't uncommon for the band to blossom out to seven, nine, or even eleven members on any given evening. "Part of the fun of seeing our band live is that the audience doesn't know who is going to show up and what kind of band they are going to get," Low said recently. There are nights when a stripped down Fox Street line-up delivers a hard charging road house blues type rock-n-roll show in the style of Gov't Mule, or Widespread Panic, while the next night might feature a horn section, Hammond B-3 player and background singers for a Blues Brothers style Rhythm and Blues revue that would be right at home on a Jazz Fest stage. One thing has remained constant no matter the line-up, the band is always hell bent on delivering a high energy show that will get whole room grooving.
"We strive to make people feel as if they are a part of the show, a piece of the action, not just watching a concert," Huvard said. "I want the audience to escape from the worries and pressures of life and to set themselves free of all burden; to reach a point of pure joy and elation, and to dance their asses off."
Over the years playing as a collective, the band realized the challenges that a rotating line-up introduced and have recently decided to firm things up a bit. "It has gotten to the point where we are really trying to solidify the sound and the lineup," explained Huvard. "With the full time addition of Dave Solzberg on bass, we're able to get better faster and work out new material more easily."
"Since cementing Dave into our lineup, it's made a huge difference. He's older and a lot more experienced than we are. Whether it's because he's played in groups with (seemingly) everyone in Colorado, toured the world, etc. , he adds a well-rounded perspective into a our band dynamic," Dumm said. That perspective, and the musical bond that the four have developed through countless hours on stage and in the studio, has contributed to the Fox Street All Stars playing some of their best shows as a four piece recently. That's not to say the band doesn't still have some tricks up its sleeve, in fact they plan to continue to invite special guests to gigs and there are other surprises in store for fans as Fox Street continues to perform around Colorado and beyond.
Until recently, live shows were fans only opportunity to get their dose of the Fox Street All Stars, but with the release of Welcome to Mighty Pleasin', the band has dropped an album that reeks of the roadhouses of the deep south that inspired their signature sound. Though the title of the project was plucked from early morning memories of partying on a friends boat, the band was deadly serious when they began laying down tracks with several of the musicians that have helped them along the way.
"We had the pleasure of having both Bill McKay of Leftover Salmon and Eric Blumenfeld of Kinetix lay down some absolutely ridiculous and beautiful keys," said Dumm. Mark Levy of Frogs Gone Fishin' added percussion, Nathan Peoples sat-in on saxophone, and Christie Chambers and Aubrie Hamrick sweetened things up a bit with some harmony vocals.
Recorded with crystal clear precision by Josh Fairman at Laskin Production Studios in Littleton, CO, screaming slide guitar, gritty vocals and funk laced rhythms characterize a majority of the original cuts on the record, with a few exceptions. "Lost My Reflection" and "Word Travels Fast" conjure up images of West Texas honky-tonks and on the standout ballad in the collection, "Angel Wings," Huvard and the rest of the All Stars seem to channel The Black Crowes as they pour their souls into every note.
Nodding to those that came before them, Fox Street also dropped a few covers into the mix on Mighty Pleasin'. A dirty, swinging version of Chuck Berry's "Goin' Back To Memphis" graces the back end of the album while the band showcases why they have dubbed their sound "Funky Rock-n-Soul" with a scorching take on the late 60's gem "Somebody In The World for You," by The Mighty Hannibal, early on.
A highlight of the project, and a window into their jaw dropping live performances, comes midway through the original "Ride with Your Baby" when the band slows things down a bit, slips off into a psychedelic jam and shows maturity beyond their years as they build tension and tease the song back up to a raging crescendo that features some truly inspired slide guitar work from Dumm.
From the first note of Mighty Pleasin' to the last, The Fox Street All Stars have proven that they can take their high energy stage show, inject some heartfelt ballads, and create an album that will please fans of funk, blues, soul and rock-n-roll alike. If their opening slot on funk legends The New Mastersounds summer tour is any indication, the Fox Street All Stars are a band that is poised to break through into the mainstream at any moment. In the meantime, they will continue to refine their chops and happily fill their role as Colorado's favorite party band as they blow the roof off venues all over state.
The Fox Street All Stars Are: James Dumm (Vocals, Guitar), Jonathan "Skippy" Huvard (Vocals, Guitar), Eric Low (Drums), Dave Solzberg (Bass) and frequently Bill McKay of Leftover Salmon (Keyboards, Vocals)
The Fox Street All Stars have shared the stage with The New Mastersounds, Karl Denon's Tiny Universe, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Blues Traveler, Stanton Moore of Galactic, Papa Mali, John Medeski of Medeski, Martin + Wood, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Marc Ford (formerly of The Black Crowes and Ben Harper's Innocent Criminals), Andy Hess (of Gov't Mule and The John Scofield Band), Brian Jordan of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Jazz guitarist extraordinaire Will Bernard, as well as members of Colorado's Leftover Salmon, Kinetix, YAMN, Yo, Flaco!, and Filthy Children.