Ken Leighton 11 a.m., May 27
Mark Markowitz: Drums | Brennan Orndorff: Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric), Vocals | Keith Tenzer: Mandolin | Kent Stephens: Bass guitar, Vocals | Dave Lowenstein: Banjo, Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric), Vocals
Sound description: Raw and dirty mixture of country, bluegrass, and bluesy rock, often both heartfelt and satirical at the same time.
RIYL: Old 97's, Son Volt, the Band, the Jayhawks
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- Blurt · Aug. 9, 2007
- myspace · July 18, 2007
- Blurt · July 5, 2007
Inception: San Diego, 2004
Influences: Old 97's, Son Volt, Wilco, Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo, Jayhawks, Ryan Adams, Hank Williamses, Hank Thompson, Bobby Bare, Townes Van Zandt, Willie, Waylon, Merle, Junior Brown, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, Emmylou, the Grateful Dead
Shoestring Strap guitarist/banjo player Dave Lowenstein explains how the band got its name. "When our outlaw country/bluegrass band first moved from playing living rooms to having actual gigs, our mandolin player Keith borrowed a strap from our bass player Kent. One day Kent wanted his strap back. You would think a mandolin might have smaller strap pegs than a bass, but not so. It stretched out the [strap] holes so much that Kent's bass would fall off, repeatedly, onstage. Keith still didn't want to buy a strap for some reason so I offered to give him a shoestring as a strap. We also wanted a name that's impossible to say drunk."
When the band released their Mudgrass CD in summer 2007, a production problem ensued. "Due to a mix-up at the CD factory," says Lowenstein, "some copies of our new CD Mudgrass have two tracks of Mormon sermons instead of our 14 songs." Lowenstein didn't know about the erroneous recordings until he was told by a friend. "I didn't believe it, so I threw an unopened CD into my Mac, hit play, and was serenaded by some midi-programmed piano.... The music stopped, and the sermon began, 'Deuteronomy is the definitive statement of the law by which Israel is supposed to live....' Then there's stuff about Brigham Young and the prophet Joseph Smith...
"Apparently, the CD plant moved from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, and the new plant is run by the Mormon church," explains Lowenstein. "The plant is going to give us 1000 new copies and let us keep all the ones we have, but it's up to us to open all of them to check the contents."
It's unknown how many of the CDs are in circulation. "We went on the road right when it came out, so anybody that got CDs in L.A. or at the Bobolink Music Festival [in Belden, C.A.] could have the Mormon edition.... Maybe this is a sign that all our songs about drinking and doing drugs aren't sending the right message."
Regarding the band's appearance in the upcoming film Circus of Life, Lowenstein says, "We went to a soundstage in L.A. and got clown makeup put on us...we waited around for eight hours, until the end of the day, for them to shoot us dressed as drunk clowns and lip-synching to our song 'If Jesus Was Whiskey (I'd Be a Saved Man).'"
Lowenstein says they landed the movie gig because "Our mandolin player's dad Bert Tenzer is a film and TV producer in L.A. He's been working on this movie since the '60s, when he shot footage with Casey Kasem, [British comedian] Terry Thomas, and the guy who did voice-overs in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. He added some newly shot scenes around 2006 with William Shatner and Doug Llewellyn (of People's Court fame). He needed a song in the movie to symbolize the corrupt youth of today, and what could be a better fit than our tune?"
A clip of the band's appearance in the film is posted on their MySpace page. Mixed with '60s and '70s footage of L.A. strippers and strip clubs is new footage of William Shatner as a hippie-haired cartoonist pornographer and Shoestring Strap, near unrecognizable under the clown makeup.
"It's been sent off to some film festivals," says Lowenstein, "so who knows where it could take us? We're available to play at Cannes."
Mandolin player Keith Tenzer left the band in August 2007 to move to Germany. His last appearance with the band was August 18 at Portugalia. The band announced it was splitting in December '07. Said Lowenstein, "At our best, it was some of the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on."
As of 2013, Lowenstein fronts Mudgrass, named after Strap's 2007 full-length.