About the band
Dancing to STEAM!
While catching your breath from one of their power sets, you might find yourself lifted by a set of lyrical jigs, getting sassy to some swingy rags, or laughing out loud at a twist of musical imagination. For sure, you’ll see why people are raving about the energy they bring to every dance floor! Their concerts take you on a further journey, with compelling songs, thoughtful airs, and wacky humor adding to their wide-ranging tunes.
These four great friends spend most of their time separated by the Rocky Mountains, but they tour together regularly all over the U.S. And they’ve spent every September for years at now at Carp Camp of the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. Jamming for 16 hours a day for 2 weeks straight gives room for experimenting and touring through the odd and wonderful permutations of each tune, not to mention the tie-dye and general silliness that may ensue. All of that is along for the ride when STEAM! comes to town.
Given that half of our band is in Kansas and half is in Tucson, we often get asked how did you meet and how do you practice. The short answer is Winfield!
Dave has been going to the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield Kansas for more than 30 years. He met Robert there almost that long ago. Claire and Dave have been in bands together for 20+ years, Alice moved to Tucson for grad school and she and Claire went to Winfield for the first time in 2005, where Alice met Robert and the rest is history.
“Winfield” is a festival where musicians gather to jam (we hear there are performance stages too). You can walk through the campgrounds at night and get your fill of old time, bluegrass, blues, country, and even Irish. Carp Camp is where we, and 60 or more of our dearest musical friends, jam from around 8 pm until the wee hours. Days are filled with more tunes and more goofiness, trips to Braums, service day playing for a church and a vets hospital, cooking, and more goofiness. We have produced musicals (an abridged version of the Sound of Music), we are pirates on Talk like a Pirate Day (Arrrggg), and on Saturday night of the festival we have a theme, which involves elaborate to minimalist costuming as aliens, vikings, come as your favorite tune, and more. If playing 15 hours a day together for 10 days straight is practice, then we definitely practice at Winfield – a lot! We also share tunes all the time and arrange sets whenever we are together, and now over Zoom. We love playing together and we absolutely love playing for dancers – the rhythm of your feet adding to the sound and your smiles and moves floor bringing it all to life.
mandolin, bouzouki, laptop snare/cymbal
Dave pulls out the “take no prisoners” style of playing at every dance – bringing the tunes to their full potential and beyond. He is a tune-meister and music jams are super fun when he is in the driver’s seat. Originally a drummer, his strong sense of rhythm and syncopation is the foundation of his playing and tune writing, and truthfully he is never happier than when he gets to pull out the drum kit to back Alice on our swing numbers. Don’t worry, he can access his sensitive side when playing waltzes and beautiful melodies. Dave is a musical vagrant retiree now, but before that, he was the Senior Gyzmologist building lightning detection systems.
Alice is known for her joyful fiddle style, inventive harmonies, and waltzes that make your heart sing. Formerly a professional violist, she left that musical world behind to immerse herself in the traditional styles and tunes of Old Time, Irish, Canadian, and modern contra music. While rooted in tradition, she melds tunes to fit each mood, adding creative twists and a deep sense of harmony and powerful drive. In recent years, she began writing tunes, and we now feature many of them on our CDs and when playing live. When she’s not playing fiddle, she teaches and researches birds in the tropics and the prairies and is a professor at Kansas State.
Robert’s guitar establishes a rock solid rhythmic foundation while his interesting chord choices and flat-picking leads add texture, mood, and variety to the band’s sound. Robert played bluegrass music until his reawakening to contra dance melodies. He also plays a fine banjo and wrote the perfect zen banjo tune, Banjo Crawl on our Hoodaki recording. When he is not playing or teaching guitar, banjo, or soprano ukulele, he is probably humming a tune that is his latest inspiration.
bodhrán, flatfooting, vocals, concertina
Claire adds the bass and the heartbeat with her rich and sensitive bodhrán playing or sets down the rhythm with her foot percussion and Old-Time flatfooting. She also sings and has written the lyrics to many of STEAM’s waltzes and concert songs. Anglo concertina is one of her many musical passions and she also has a 20 year+ career as a caller – sometimes stepping out from the band to call the dance too! When not playing music or organizing music and dance things, Claire is the Director of Pima County Cooperative Extension at the University of Arizona.