Black Pistol Fire celebrates Aspen’s Sam Coffey at Belly Up
IF YOU GO ...
What: Black Pistol Fire “A Celebration for Sam Coffey” with opener Thunderpussy
When: Friday, July 26, 9 p.m.
Where: Belly Up Aspen
Cost: $35 to $65
More info: bellyupaspen.com
Black Pistol Fire has played in Aspen many times. Usually at Belly Up, whose owners also manage the band, for a tour stop or perhaps at a charity event like Ascendigo’s Light It Blue. The Austin-by-way-of-Toronto rock duo also has shown up at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience and gone acoustic in a gondola car on Aspen Mountain.
However, their latest local stop is a little bit different and a lot of bit special. They’re still going to bring their thrilling, exhausting, aggressive, distortion-filled live show to Belly Up on Friday, but it also will be a celebration of local Sam Coffey, who died on vacation in Mexico in May.
Wiley Maple, a good friend of Coffey and member of his ski gang, the Freaks, reached out to David and Danny Goldberg, owners of Belly Up and managers of Black Pistol Fire, and related how much their gang enjoyed Black Pistol Fire’s music and what the band’s Aspen appearances meant to them.
“(The Freaks) were big fans of ours and they kind of came to every show and Sam in particular,” recalled drummer Eric Owen, who makes up Black Pistol Fire along with singer/guitarist Kevin McKeown, speaking from the road just outside San Francisco. “I think it was something they really bonded over and, you know, something they really all did together.”
Coffey and the Freaks had long been part of the band’s fervent local fanbase.
“Going to the Belly Up and rock ’n’ roll shows in general is a huge part of Sam’s and all of our lives,” Baker Boyd, also a good friend of Coffey’s and member of the Freaks, said Wednesday via text.
“When we found out he passed, a couple of the Freaks reached out to … our management and kind of told us,” Owen said of how the idea and offer came about, which the band happily accepted. “Anything we can do to kind of help remember the guy.”
Often compared to the Black Keys, the duo delivers a similar sound on Spotify but a faster and grungier version live — especially at Belly Up.
Known for improvisation-heavy shows that feature McKeown playing everywhere from in the crowd to the top of Owen’s bass drum, the band leaves the audience almost as sweaty as themselves.
The headbang-inducing “Alabama Coldcock” sounds exactly as the name implies: a confrontationally loud guitar with louder drums. “Run Rabbit Run” begins with a pulsating bass drum and only gets more frenetic when guitar and vocals come in.
However, their catalog is more diverse and can be overshadowed by the sheer volume of their live show.
“Bombs and Bruises” sounds like it was written for an acoustic guitar, when listened to on the aforementioned “Gondola Sessions.” One of their newest releases, “Temper Temper,” features an infectious, almost funk feel that Owen called more “groovy” and “psychedelic” with a Tame Impala and alt-J vibe.
“We’ve always kind of listened to everything and then you just get inspired by different types of music,” Owen said. “You know we’re never going to sound like those bands. It’s like, how can we take little elements that they do that we like and make them work for us?”
And Owen said fans have been happy with the new music and are cool with Black Pistol Fire trying different sounds because “they don’t want to hear the same thing all the time. … It’s always going to sound like us.” Just maybe with different “elements” or “personalities.”
While the band hasn’t come out with a full album since 2017, they’ve been releasing songs as they’ve become ready, citing the months it takes to get an album mastered, get the vinyl ready and do press. “Temper Temper,” released in May, is one such song that was debuted outside of the traditional album format.
“Now you have songs ready to go,” Owen said. “Instead of waiting a year and a half, maybe you can just release them when you’re ready so it’s fresh with you and fresh with your audience.”
They’re still going to make albums, but Owen said it is “a weird thing when you record a song and two years later it comes out on an album.”
Owen said they’re going to play some of Coffey’s favorite songs, do a deep-dive in the catalog, play some new stuff and possibly a cover or two, as well, but otherwise there were no concrete plans for honoring Coffey onstage at press time.
Though they didn’t know him personally, Owen said the band just wants to show people a good time and help them remember a good guy who “will be there in spirit.”