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A World Cup reunion for musicians

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

Next week, local musician Bryon Friedman will share the stage with an old friend. Two decades ago, he may have shared his bathroom.

In 1998, Friedman and Gordy Quist were randomly assigned as roommates during their freshman year at Dartmouth College. Besides being involved in athletics, the guys found that they had something else in common: a passion for music.

"We just hit it off on many levels," says Quist. "We’d sit together and play music all day long while we were hanging out in the room."

Their mutual appreciation for music made for a lasting friendship throughout college and beyond. "It was a match made in heaven," Friedman jokes. "We had a really good time."

On Thursday, Jan. 14, Friedman will open for Quist’s group, The Band of Heathens, at Harry O’s. Mountain Town Music is presenting the concert as the official after-party for the opening celebration of the Visa Freestyle International World Cup at Deer Valley.

The show will mark the first time Friedman and Quist have shared the bill, and probably the first time they’ve jammed together since their days in the dorm.

After college, Quist became a financial investor before abandoning the corporate route for the life of a musician. He moved to Austin in 2005 and started playing at a local bar one night a week with three other singer/songwriters and their bands. "We all just kind of hit it off and it became an open jam session where we were all playing with each other and each other’s bands," Quist explains.

Eventually, the frontmen from each group Quist, Colin Brooks and Ed Jurdi came together and formed a single band. "Someone thought it would be pretty funny to start calling us The Heathens and it started showing up in the newspaper," says Quist. "That ended up sticking."

The Band of Heathens brought on bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman and took their act on the road. By 2007, the group had put out a live album from their home venue in Austin and with its success, the trio of lead singers decided to put aside their solo projects and make the band a priority.

Meanwhile, Friedman had been busy training, traveling and competing as a member of the U.S. Ski Team. In 2005, he broke his leg and took some time off to recuperate.

He moved to California and started writing songs as an outlet for his frustrations about being injured. "My whole perspective and outlook on the world was a lot different," he says. "I kind of lost the competitive edge and tapped into a whole different source of emotions I guess."

When he returned to Park City, Friedman started playing with fellow Dartmouth alum Trevor Nealon (who coincidentally now plays keyboard on select dates with The Band of Heathens). At the time, he says he had never considered a career in music. "It wasn’t even a figment of my imagination," he says. "I was just playing for fun and enjoying it."

As his music reached more people, Friedman realized the potential for performing. "It’s definitely taken on a life of its town," he says. "It’s essentially the same thing I did skiing, but with music. It’s pretty cool really cool."

Both Quist and Friedman embrace the fact that their musical vocations have come about a bit backwards. "I never really played a show until after I recorded an album, which is totally the opposite way most people do it," Freidman says. "I guess there’s no right or wrong way to go about things."

The Band of Heathens has taken an unorthodox approach to, well, just about everything. The most prominent anomaly is that the band has three lead singers, songwriters and guitarists. On some songs, one musician takes center stage, and on others, they share the spotlight.

"I think we do a lot of things backwards," says Quist. "We recorded two live albums before we ever did a studio album. With this band, everything has been sort of unplanned and organic."

The band has been playing about 200 to 250 shows annually for the past few years. They’ve appeared at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival several times and in 2007, they earned the Austin Music Award for "Best New Band."

Last fall, the group released their second studio album, "One Foot in the Ether," on their own label. "If we want to give away some free tracks, we want to be able to do that," Quist says, explaining why the band turned down a contract from a major record label. "I think the music industry’s changing a lot right now. It’s an interesting time to be independent and have the freedom to experiment with different promotional tools. For other people, the label thing works better, but this is working for us."

The album has climbed its way to the top of Americana charts and can be described as gritty, country rock with a few gospel songs thrown in the mix.

Friedman says he has nothing but respect for The Band of Heathens and is excited to share a stage with them. "It’s just cool to see a good group of songwriters," he says. "Colin, Gordy and Ed all have different styles and vibes but they complement each other really well. I think they’re great."

"Our styles are definitely different but I think they go well together," Quist says. "I think that our fans will dig what he does and I hope that his fans will dig what we do."

Tickets for the show are $12 tickets in advance at http://www.mountaintownstages.com or $15 tickets at the door. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more about The Band of Heathens, visit http://www.bandofheathens.com . For more about Bryon Friedman, visit http://www.bryonfriedmanmusic.com .


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