Face Melting Music – Gunnison Country Times

Every time the door to Gunnison Pizza Company opened late on the evening of Saturday, January 16th, the sound of crashing cymbals, relentless bass and the exploratory electric guitar of local band Left on Red wafted into the darkness.

The three-piece group—comprised of drummer Jeff Walker, bassist Mike Sharan and guitarist Alden Burt—was born out of the members’ appreciation of the heavy, complex music of the valley’s jam bands and bluegrass. Playing a mix of genres, the band cites acts such as the Melvins, Primus, Mr. Bungle and Faith No More as his main influences.

“You can call it math rock, you can call it prog rock,” Walker said. “Some people call us punk rock. We are a heavy, loud and impressive band. Sprinkle that with lots of weird beats, starts and stops and you’re getting close. We write complex song structures with the intention of not sounding like every other band in the valley.”

The group was slow to form because it took a while for the three to find each other. Walker moved to the Valley in 2019 to snowboard and got a job at Secret Stash. He was looking for like-minded musicians when the bartender at the restaurant introduced him to Sharan.

“Once Mike and I jammed, we pretty much clicked,” Walker said. “We had progressive ideas that we were able to develop into our songs.”

The two spent almost a year as a drum and bass duo before meeting Burt at the Blue Mesa Music Store open mic where he was working the soundboards.

Burt, who is 19 years old, was born and raised in Gunnison. As a child, he took piano lessons from a local teacher in Gunnison. From piano he jumps to trumpet before discovering Elliott Smith and leaping headlong into guitar.

At 36, Charan is more than a decade older than Burt. He is a roofer who first moved to the valley in 2007. He is also in a bluegrass band called The Secondhand String Band and has been playing music since he was 18 years old. Eight years ago, his future wife bought him a bass. He said he immediately clicked with it and started experimenting.

Walker is 49 years old and has lived many lives, he said. His history with music and touring with bands runs deep. He first started playing drums as a freshman in high school, trying to imitate the sounds of Metallica and Slayer.

After high school, he attended Chico State in Northern California and in his senior year helped form a band called Headspace, which toured extensively, opening for bigger acts like Sublime and Goldfinger. When tragedy struck and the lead singer died of a drug overdose, Walker quit music for a while and moved to Tahoe to snowboard.

He eventually ended up in Portland, Oregon, where he played in a variety of genre-diverse bands: the loud, complex Facepilot, the grunge GALL, and a two-man band called Huger, which he says was named after the fact that “we were so loud , just the two of us … were ‘bigger’ than your group of five.’

Walker said Left on Red is a combination of all those bands, with an emphasis on complex time scales and a heavy, thunderous wall of sound. For Sharan, the creativity in Left on Red’s songs is what keeps him so engaged.

Left on Red has another gig at Gunnison Pizza Company on February 10th. Meanwhile, the band continues to write songs and rehearse twice a week in a garage that doubles as a concert venue and practice space on Virginia Street.

“We have a brand new song we’re going to perform for the first time and it’s probably one of our most complex songs we’ve written yet,” Walker said.

Looking ahead, the band hopes to record an EP in the near future while continuing to play in Gunnison and beyond. As for the Feb. 10 show, they said anyone planning to attend should come prepared.

“Bring some extra faces,” Burt said before Walker chimed in, “because we’re going to melt your er… face.”

(Jacob Spetzler can be reached at 970.641.1414.)

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