Sep 202007
Authors: Aaron Rognstad

What started five years ago as a garage band playing house parties has now morphed into a statewide name playing gigs across the Front Range. And with their latest album, “The Border,” hitting stores, the six members of Wasabi make their way home to Mishawaka Amphitheater tonight.

Voted Westword’s Best Jam Band/Improv Band in Colorado in 2007, Wasabi was formed in Fort Collins by Brian Collins and Sean Waters, but soon became a six-piece ensemble made up of two electric guitars, keyboards, saxophone, bass and drums.

A mix of rock, psychedelic blues and funky jazz, Wasabi draws upon influences like the Beatles, The Band, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Grateful Dead, Ornette Coleman, Widespread Panic and Led Zeppelin.

“Along with our own material, we’ve covered the Rolling Stones, Nirvana and Ween to name a few,” said 30 year-old saxophonist Tom Gray. “We like to get in there and mix it up, you know what I mean.”

But it’s the extemporization that makes Wasabi stand apart from the plethora of local bands.

Every Wasabi show is significantly different than the next as the band constantly shuffles through manifold genres displaying improvisation with complex guitar and saxophone solos over rhythmic grooves and chords.

Aside from their well-known improvisational music, Wasabi has found their trademark sound on their latest record.

“Not until this last year have we really got into the sound that is defining Wasabi right now,” said Brian Collins, 27, who plays keyboards and shares vocals. “We all got together as friends and came a long way musically by having multiple members contribute to the songwriting, and the new album reflects that.”

Since the album release, Wasabi has played gigs and festivals in Wyoming, Utah and Indiana.

“If we continue to play and reach more people, I see us playing Red Rocks in five years, though I’d be just as happy playing with these cats in my back yard, if that’s the case,” said Gray, who graduated from CSU in 2000 and works as an engineer for Sun Microsystems. “I wouldn’t mind taking an extended leave of absence from the corporate world to earn a living as a musician.”

The entire band has a nine-to-fives ranging from graphic designing to taxi-cab dispatching. Yet, across the board, they expressed the desire to play music full-time.

“I want to tour around the country and do what I love,” said 33 year-old bass player Eric Skjerseth, who manages an apartment complex in Fort Collins.

“If we’re right where we are in five years, I’ll be happy, but if we could be doing this full-time, it would be a bonus,” said 29 year-old drummer Marshall Van Stone, a graphic artist and CSU alum.

While the band expresses a desire to grow a fan base, they are definitely not in it for the money, they said.

“I hope we’re just still playing,” said 32 year-old rhythm guitarist and vocalist Ehren Crumpler. “We’re musicians playing music, and that’s all that matters to me.”

Wasabi will be playing the Mishawaka Amphitheater tonight with the 3 Peas and DJ Chordata at 8p.m. in a benefit concert for the Sunset Community Project to raise money to build homes for poverty-stricken families in Central America.

Staff writer Aaron Rognstad can be reached at

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