Is it country, or is it bluegrass? Is it ragtime, or gypsy music? In regards to Sacramento’s all-acoustic band, The F Street Stompers, the answer is yes.
With quick shifting rhythms and the bluesy roots of America’s turn of the century music, The F Street Stompers continue to find ever-changing ways to transform and blend high-energy jigs of early ragtime with classic upbeat toe-tapping songs; creating one upbeat dance number after another. The band stated that they strive to capture the early 1900’s energy and the revival of the ragtime movement celebrated well into the ’40s. Early on in their inception the Stompers played mostly ’20s renditions of even older songs, creating a relevant sound from a form of music not often heard these days. By drawing on influences from the likes of Leon Redbone, Peggy Lee, and the Memphis Jug Band, they would occasionally alter a song by adding verses to truly make it their own.
The quintet is composed of Max Peterson on banjo, Brent Vallard on steel guitar, Robin “Danger” Croen on bass, Matt Paige on mandolin, and Sam “Sammy Boy” Shirley on washboard. A versatile group of musicians, they can be found playing just about anywhere. From the historic walkways of old Sacramento, to an array of venues throughout downtown, the band members enjoy the freedom of a true acoustic sound; which is definitely an appealing aesthetic both visually and audibly. Peterson explains, “Playing acoustic affords us the ability to play anywhere, anytime and helps us connect with our audience; we can encourage them to dance and sing along without being abrasive through a PA.”
Recently the group made a few swerves in their sound in an effort to evolve from their early traditional Americana roots. With the accompaniment of a fiddle player and an occasional clarinet, the band has ventured into a more gypsy rock sound, though they want to assure long time fans that they have no intention of abandoning what made them start playing in the first place. Vocalist Max Peterson explains, “We all love so many types of music and had been playing a fairly similar style for so long that we wanted to really challenge ourselves musically. Eventually we just starting playing without intention and let the music go wherever it wanted to. With adding in new musicians, new avenues opened up and created something more from a familiar core group of people. It was a really beautiful thing.”
Often when an acoustic set is being played it is customary to quiet down and show respect with a deserving silence. Not only do the F Street Stompers not mind an active audience, they warmly welcome it. Although they can be found at a random assortment of venues, they prefer the good old house party, living room show or backyard soiree. “There are a lot less inhibitions at a non traditional show, people let loose a lot more,” Peterson explains. The band love it when an audience cannot help but dance, clap, or sing along. “Audiences in Davis are pretty good about feeding off our energy, which helps us enjoy the experience and give an even more memorable performance. Our shows at Fox and Goose are always a great time too.” The band has become a bit of a tradition at the downtown traditional English public house as the band hosts their own night once a month. It has been described as an open mic that becomes an F Street Stompers show, which eventually transcends into a full on Hootenanny, exactly what the band loves most: a room full of people and musicians creating new songs together.
The band is currently writing a whole new set of music and plan to hit the studio sometime near summer. They hope to have something to share with fans both new and old by fall. Until then, they can be heard every third Friday at Fox and Goose in downtown Sacramento or, more often than not, the Turtle House in Davis, CA.
Words: Jordan Wolfe