Steamboat’s Longest-running Band?
Consisting of John Lupori on lead guitar and vocals, Mark “Hermo” Hermanciski on rhythm guitar, Brad “Warpig” Williams on harmonica, Brian Smith on bass, Neil Marchman on lead guitar and on drums Gabe Hedstrom—who replaced Kevin Kolvereid, who passed away in 2018—the Brian Smith Band has been entertaining Steamboat for years with their soul blues and high energy rock n’ roll. We caught up with ringleader Lupori, a now-retired oral and facial surgeon who started his practice here in 1999, for his take on what makes the band tick.
I’m from Chicago and have a huge blues background. I had bands when I was younger; our high school band was called White Stone. When I was 16 we’d take the train downtown and sneak into blues bars like Legend and Kingston Mines and see bands like Lenny Brooks, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor. One guy in our band went onto become a big recording artist in Austin.
In 2004 I was in a car accident and in a wheelchair for five months so I started playing guitar a lot more. Then Hermo starting playing with me and then Warpig. Our first song was Long Black Veil by Johnny Cash. After five months or so we picked up a bass player and a drummer and started practicing in Hermo’s basement, which was where the coroner used to do his autopsies. There was a big manhole on the ceiling where they’d throw down the bodies.
We were called Warpig and the Bongwater Blues Band. Our first gig was at Old Town Pub. Kevin Kolvereid was there at asked to join. Our drummer had hurt his foot and couldn’t play, so we brought him on. He was good. Then our bass player moved in 2006 and someone said, ‘I know a bass player named Brian Smith.’ So I looked him up and there were, like, 15 Brian Smiths in Steamboat. So, I started calling every single one until I found him. He’s great and from Chicago also, with a background in guitar.
We played again at OTP and the owner said he needed our name to place an ad. So I just said, ‘the Brian Smith Band,” and that’s been our name ever since. When he’s not playing, he’s the Dean of Students at the Steamboat Mountain School.
We’re more of a band and a show, the sum of all our parts. People come to see all the characters involved. Our music is kind of loud and raw. A lot of our influence is from what I call Stratocaster blues. It’s kind of a distinct sub-category of blues. Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray and Clapton all played it, a sort of combo of Texas, Chicago and Delta as opposed to jazz blues like B.B. King. But we’re also influenced by ‘80s-‘90s punk and Ska also, with bands like The Specials, English Beat and The Clash.
I started writing originals in 2008. Now we probably have 15 or so, with four or five on Spotify. One’s called “O’Reilly’s Bar” about a Chicago bar that was torn down, and another is called “Cliffs of Mohr,” which has a strong Ska beat. I always write the riff first, get a real unique riff, and then add the backing track and rhythm and then the lyrics. Then I always do the chorus first and try to make that the main part of the song and support it with verses. Most of our songs are three-chord songs, but we’ve been known to write a couple four-chord songs.
We also started playing a lot of different venues around then as well as special events, like every New Year’s at VFW. We opened for Tab Benoit at OTP and play a lot of his covers. We also opened for Samantha Fish, Eddie 9-volt, Smash Mouth and Eric Tessmer.
We’re kind of known as the ‘Doctor Band’ because we have me and Hermo. Kevin, who died in 2018, always considered himself a doctor but he was a PA. So, we have a big following from the hospital…nurses, techs, radiologists and other docs. It’s kind of an escape for Hermo and I, when I was practicing. Once all our patients were taken care of, we could play on weekends as a sort of escape. We try to practice every Thursday, but that started to fall apart when everyone started having kids.
My son, Jack, is part of the band now also. He’s awesome and can play any instrument. He’s also formed his own band called Ruckus Squad. They opened for us once and blew us away. It sucked.
We’re in it for the fun, not the money. We started getting paid in 2008 and right now our bank account is still negative $3,000. Our dream is to play the mountain town circuit; the only thing in our way is everyone’s wife. Our absolute fantasy is to play Red Rocks. They feature a local’s band once a week, but our chances for that are absolute zero.
We were one of the first bands to play during the pandemic with social distancing at The Press. But no one could dance. I don’t like playing unless people can dance.
There are certainly musicians and bands that are way better than us. But I will say that in Steamboat, which is a great music town, we could be the oldest, maybe behind Worried Men. But we’re definitely in the hunt. Still, for a blues band, we’re adolescents.