- Dania Owen
- Colorado Springs’ Tejon Street Corner Thieves will join Saddle of Southern Darkness on a “money route to Muddy Roots.”
With such a pedigree of performers, it’s certainly notable when a Colorado Springs act is performing, at the personal invitation of festival organizer Jason Galaz, no less. This year, the Springs’ festival emissaries are the self-described “outlaw blues and trashgrass” act Tejon Street Corner Thieves, who kick off a 15-date “Suds n’ Guts” tour on Aug. 20 with the Castle Rock-based trio Saddle of Southern Darkness — a “money route to Muddy Roots.”
Tejon Street Corner Thieves are one of the few local acts where I’ve seen cars around town adorned with their stickers (outside the vehicles of the band members themselves, mind you), but if you’ve yet to catch them live, the perfect opportunity would be their upcoming Aug. 18 appearance at Mother Muff’s. True to their name, the band indeed got their start on a street corner.
“Shawn D’Amario and myself started the band after my dad passed away,” explains vocalist/banjoist Connor O’Neal. “His dad had actually passed shortly before mine, and we met through a mutual friend when I moved home to console my mom.”
O’Neal and guitarist D’Amario, both of whom serve as the band’s principal singers and songwriters, started busking on the corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street, and soon gained a good deal of attention that way, building a fan base from initially playing for “food and beer money,” as O’Neal puts it. Before long, the band had worked its way into bars and venues and attracted new members — Julie Frost serves as their “hometown” bass player, while the band tours with Amarillo-based musicians Jeremy Knowles on bass and Spencer Mode on washboard and percussion.
While the Thieves have clearly found an audience, and one that’s likely to expand as they embark on their fourth tour of the year, busking is still a big part of the band’s philosophy — O’Neal, in fact, spoke with me while taking a break from busking in Manitou Springs. They’ve also just finished work on their third EP, titled Goers, which will be released with a show on Sept. 16 at the Black Sheep.
“It’s got a kind of churchy theme to it, in the punk-trashgrass kind of way,” says O’Neal, who further describes it as a concept album. The EP was recorded and mixed by Adam Hawkins and mastered by Dan Goebel.
While there have been a thousand think pieces on how to have your band “make it,” the Tejon Street Corner Thieves’ ascension from a literal street corner to Muddy Roots has been propelled the old-fashioned way: hard work and relentless touring.
For the past three years, the unsigned band has largely handled all its own promotional and booking duties, playing gigs everywhere from Kansas City’s annual Westport Roots Festival (at which the band just confirmed their third appearance) to tour routes taking them to western Canada. O’Neal believes this dedication is what caught the eye of Muddy Roots Records founder and festival organizer Galaz.
“We play over 250 shows a year around the country, and don’t plan on slowing down. It also helps that over the years we’ve played with and befriended a huge portion of the bands playing at Muddy Roots — it’ll be kind of a reunion for the nationwide roots community. It’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
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