Black Pistol Fire returns to Belly Up Aspen on Friday
If You Go …
What: Black Pistol Fire
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Friday, Sept. 4, 10 p.m.
How much: $15 GA; $25 Reserved ($5 surcharge for people under 21)
Tickets: Belly Up box office; www.bellyupaspen.com
Black Pistol Fire has built a following over the last five years on the strength of its unhinged live shows, traveling across the country on a hard-rocking, hard-touring mission and leaving new fans at each stop along the way.
But one stop by the two-piece rock band here in Aspen left a bigger impression, and last year led the Belly Up to sign the band to its new management division, taking on Black Pistol Fire as the first artist in its stable.
“I was a fan before anything else,” David Goldberg, who runs Belly Up Management with his brother, Danny, said earlier this year. “They came through here and I loved them. … It was the right band at the right time with all the right momentum. The thing that caught our eye was just how talented they are.”
The band had played a free show here two years ago, and returned last summer to a sold-out crowd. After that show, Danny Goldberg recalled, they got to talking in the club after it emptied out.
“They said, ‘Why don’t we just do this together,’” he recalled. “We were going into it with them. It was a team thing.”
For Black Pistol Fire’s singer-guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen, the relationship started with the joy of playing the intimate mountain town club.
“We fell in love with the venue, its great sound, great hospitality and overall great vibe,” said McKeown. “So we knew we wanted to go back. And when we did, we got to talking with David and Danny.”
McKeown and Owen have been friends since kindergarten. They started playing with bands in their native Toronto in high school and after, before heading south to play in the music Mecca of Austin, Texas and forming what would become Black Pistol Fire.
“The scene in Toronto was a strange one for what we were playing,” McKeown said. “There wasn’t really a scene catering to rock and blues, so it was one of those things where I was working a sales position job and I said, ‘I’m gonna go south somewhere and play music.’”
When they arrived in Austin, Owen immediately started booking them shows as a two-piece, thinking it would be a way to get a foothold in the local music scene and find gigs with other bands, or add band members. As it turned out, they didn’t need more. Black Pistol Fire’s gritty mix of bluesy rock and punk grew a following in Austin, so they made a record, their self-titled 2011 debut. The record sold well and fed the buzz around them, which led to bigger gigs and tours beyond Austin (and last year, a spot in a ubiquitous T-Mobile ad.).
They now have three albums under their belt, a fourth planned for release in early 2016 and have won a national following with tours of clubs and sets at big festivals like, most recently, Lollapalooza.
Of course, as a two-piece that plays a lot of bluesy garage rock, Black Pistol Fire invites comparisons to the White Stripes and the Black Keys.
“When we made our first record, it was relentless,” McKeown said. “You couldn’t escape it. We were a little bothered by it at first.”
Over the few years since then, the band has earned a reputation for a barely controlled chaos in concert, and for a versatility that has quieted critics who may have viewed them as another lo-fi White Stripes/Black Keys knock-off.
“Now, if people say we sound like the White Stripes or the Black Keys, if that’s what it takes to get somebody in the door, I’m all for it,” McKeown said. “But we’re trying to do our own thing. I love blues and R&B soul and bluegrass, and you get anybody who has those kinds of influences playing in a two-piece band, you’re going to have similarities.”
Their most recent show here, a sold-out one in January, was a high point in a jam-packed winter at Belly Up. The band returns to the club on Friday, Sept. 4.
As a band on the rise, McKeown is hopeful Black Pistol Fire can keep improving as musicians, get the new album out by fall, and get their first European tour under their belt this year. As newcomers to band management, Belly Up is they’re proud to have Black Pistol Fire as the first act on their team.
“The management division is something we want to grow,” said David. “It’s a lot of fun, and we learn as we go along. But they trust us and we trust them wholeheartedly.”
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