Last February, while attending the Winter Wondergrass festival in Steamboat, one band in particular stopped me dead in my Sorels. To my surprise, it wasn’t a headliner, nor one of the many acts who appeared on the main stage that weekend. Tucked in the corner of the beer-tasting tent, was a small stage, producing a BIG sound. The band was Bowregard. Their stage energy and musicianship during that set left an impression on everyone there.
I recently had a chance to visit with Bowregard guitarist, vocalist, and Boulder resident, Max Kabat to discuss the band’s perseverance through a pandemic, influences, and his love of skiing.
AFTER WINNING THE TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL BAND COMPETITION IN 2019, AND THEN HAVING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY TURNED UPSIDE DOWN DUE TO COVID-19, HOW HAVE YOU GUYS MANAGED TO STAY POSITIVE AND KEEP MOMENTUM?
It's been a struggle for everyone, on every side of the entertainment industry, but music is and always has been our outlet for putting positivity into the world. Winning the 2019 Band Competition at Telluride was a serious high for us. We worked incredibly hard to write, arrange and deliver those songs in a way that we felt brought a confidence and an energy to the stage that was uniquely us. Participating in the Telluride Band Competition had long been a dream for each one of us. Our dobro player, Justin Konrad, proposed to his wife at the Bluegrass festival, and many of us have been in attendance for years, watching bands we know and love take home the victory.
Our last memory from normalcy was opening for Sam Bush Band at the Boulder Theater, March 1, 2020—not a bad last memory. Things changed quickly for us after that.
We have continued to write, rehearse outdoors (weather permitting), and build on the momentum we've been lucky enough to generate. Who else is reigning champion of The Telluride Bluegrass Competition two years running? Nobody!
We try to keep things light, too. This too shall pass!
WE LOST LEGENDARY BLUEGRASS GUITARIST, TONY RICE, RECENTLY. WHEN I LISTEN TO BOWREGARD, I HEAR A LOT OF HIS INFLUENCE. IS THAT COINCIDENCE?
Tony meant a lot to all of us. Each one of us in the band can tell you about the first time we heard Tony's playing, and his voice...his voice. One incredible thing about Tony was his ability to channel such a great breadth of influences into an easily accessible genre of music. From folk to jazz to bluegrass, Tony was direct lineage to some of the most raw and expressive musicians of our time. There is no way that you can walk in the footsteps of the greats without tracing lineage back further each time—to Clarence White, Norman Blake, Doc Watson. Tony left an indelible mark in the world of bluegrass guitar. Any band that tells you they weren't influenced by Tony Rice is lying. 'Nuff said.
TALK ABOUT OTHER INFLUENCES YOU GUYS HAVE.
One fun thing about us is that our musical tastes are divided evenly within the Bluegrass genre. Justin Konrod (Dobro) and I (Max, Guitar) love the progressive stuff (Punch Brothers, Bela Fleck, Goat Rodeo), and James Armington (Banjo), Zachary Smith (Bass) and Colleen Heine (Fiddle) love traditional old time fiddle/banjo music (best showcased in the track "Cousin Sally Brown" off of "Arrows"). We really dig on the Bluegrass Album Band, John Hartford, Flatt & Scruggs, Doyle Lawson, Ricky Skaggs...the list goes on. Check those guys out for starters!
I KNOW YOU ARE A BIG SKIER. ARE YOU GETTING OUT MUCH THIS SEASON? WHERE ARE YOUR FAVORITE SKI SPOTS, AND WHAT'S YOUR BEST SKI MEMORY TO DATE?
I am indeed a big skier. We've got a few in our group. This year is the first in 15 where I have not purchased a ski pass. I do a fair amount of ski-touring, and opted to earn my turns this season, except for the couple of 4-Paks I picked up from Loveland. My favorite spots outside Mary Jane and Loveland are low-avalanche danger and safely accessed routes in RMNP when the snow is nice.
My best memory would have to be when I was 27 and traveling through Europe with my guitar. I decided to take the train to Zermatt to ski. I was broke, it was freezing, and I was busking on the street trying to raise money for a lift ticket. My guitar had popped its high E string, so I tuned down to D, threw on a B string, and slapped on a capo...industry jargon. I made more money busking that night in Zermatt than any solo gig I've ever had. I took my suisse francs to the ticket office and skied to Italy for lunch, then back into Switzerland for dinner.
Bowregard’s new album, "Arrows," is available on Spotify. Keep up with the band as they continue their ascent through the music ranks at: www.bowregard.com