FIVE FIRSTS: Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers

Stelth Ulvang – Denim from Citizen K on Vimeo.

NAME: Stelth Ulvang
BAND AFFILIATION: The Lumineers (and Dovekins!)
INSTRUMENT: Piano, Accordion, Guitar

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … I saved up and went to the mall to buy Weird Al Yankovic’s Bad Hair Day but didn’t plan on the sales tax, the guy took pity on me and pitched in money out of his own pocket so I could buy it. Thanks stranger… Now there is one more fan of accordions because of him.

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … The first concert I went to alone (with a friend as opposed to with my mom) was Keller Williams, the one-man hippie-jam looping artist. At 15, my jaw dropped seeing this incredible show at the Mishawaka – an outdoor venue on the Poudre River in Fort Collins, Colorado. I left that concert wanting to play every instrument at once and have the force to make people lose their minds and dance (unbeknownst to me how much of that how much of that effect was that of drugs and alcohol on the swaying, wide-eyed crowd). It was probably another seven years until I played my own show solo with my accordion, to a basement of a dozen punks in Fort Collins.

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … I was given a clarinet when I was 12 (the cheaper and smaller and less cool option to the saxophone). One year later, I upgraded to saxophone, for fear of never getting a girlfriend. And a year after that I went to baritone sax, for fear of having to march in marching band. (It’s just too big.)

I begged my music teacher to let me play piano in beginning jazz band, and he declined, so I abandoned woodwinds and started learning piano full on. At 19, I found $600 in a suit coat pocket in a thrift store, and used the money to buy an accordion. It seemed like a perfect waste of otherwise useful funds.

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … Aside from “Hot Cross Buns” at my sixth grade band recital, the first song I performed alone (in a basement in Colorado) was a cover of Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire’s “Candy Shop.” I played an original, too, I’m sure, but those lyrics deserve to crumble into forgotten history.

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … I was playing bari sax in a ska band that had three rehearsals called The Handshakes playing covers of The Specials. Five years later I got stuck on a sailboat in the Pacific, trying to sail from Hawaii to Seattle. We were such bad sailors (three boys from Colorado and a surly captain from Hawaii). So we spent more time writing songs than sailing well and named our band Dovekins, after our boat “The Dove.” After circling Hawaii, we gave up on our voyage to Washington and just became a band, flying to the mainland and hitch hiking home to Colorado, playing house shows along the way. Dovekins played for about three years before I joined The Lumineers, in 2011, which I suppose brings us up to date, as I now play piano, accordion and guitar with them!

In support of his sophomore solo album, “American Boredom,” multi-instrumentalist Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers’ touring band makes a tour stop in Woodstock at Colony at 7pm on Sunday (May 13). Joining him for the evening will be Y La Bomba and Byron Isaacs. Tickets are $10 in advance; $12 at the door.

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