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JACKSON, WYO – Hooligans co-founders Tom Garnsey and Rich Robiscoe have been playing après-ski shows at Grand Targhee since 1983, when the old Trap Bar was in the basement. In their early twenties at the time, Garnsey and Robiscoe would sometimes have a 10-day duo residency of powder turns and shows.
“They would put us up in the bunkhouse cabins in Driggs,” Garnsey said. “I remember Rich and I waking up on Christmas morning one time and all of the pipes had froze, even the toilet had frozen over. There we were, Merry Christmas. Hooligans has always been Rich and I, plus a revolving door of great players.”
Thirty-one years later, Hooligans is prepped for another trek to the Trap Bar for a three-day run. Hooligans officially formed in Bozeman around 1990 as a side project to Hyalite Blues Band, which included Garnsey and guitarist Gary Small. Hyalite toured regionally and made Jackson a regular stop in the mid to late ’80s.
“Jackson used to be our town,” Garnsey said. “We played the Mangy Moose a lot until they fired us for egging the crowd on and playing past curfew. Then we played in town at Spirits of the West for a few years until the Moose let us back in.”
These days, Hooligans is seemingly in their prime. Not only did the roots-rock/Americana/blues/jamband release its debut studio album in 2013, but they also saw the addition of legendary keyboardist Bill Payne (of Little Feat), now a member of the band when not on the road with one of his many projects. (Currently, Payne is elevating the vibe while on the road with Leftover Salmon).
When a localized band like Hooligans can score a semi full-time member like Bill Payne, there’s only one direction to head. The relationship with Payne has led to a fruitful collection of tunes on Beggars & Thieves, which was produced by Payne and Garnsey.
The LP was recorded over a couple of weeks at the Yellowstone House, an 1870s log home on the banks of the Yellowstone River.
Garnsey and Payne combine for a couple of co-writes, including set opener and album standout, “If I Had a Mind To.” Payne also has a co-write with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, “7th Daughter,” alongside covers by Richard Thompson and Natalie Merchant.
Studio guests are no slouches either: Tim O’Brien, Pato Banton and Spencer Bohren, among others.
“I had seen Little Feat with Lowell George when I was 17 and it blew my mind,” Garnsey said as he reminisced about how long he’s known about Bill Payne. “It seemed like Bill played on every album that I had at that time … Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger. I knew he had bought a house in Paradise Valley [in Montana] around ’79, but it wasn’t until years later that I ran into him at a bar and we were able to have a conversation. He sat in with us at Pine Creek, a 60-seat room, and really hasn’t missed a show in the last three years when he’s not on the road.
“Bill has given me a stamp of approval for my lyric writing. I would be like, ‘here’s another crappy song,’ and he would say, ‘No, this shit is good.’ It’s been a good thing for me. I mean, he just finished writing his 20th song with Robert Hunter.”
Payne, now 65, will not be joining Hooligans on this run of shows. The extended family, along with Garnsey (guitar, vocals) and Robiscoe (bass), will include Tom Murphy (mandolin) on Friday, Ron Craighead (drums/vocals), and Garnsey’s son Ryan on keyboards.
Ben Winship will fill for Murphy on mandolin on Saturday and Sunday.
Hooligans, 3 to 6 p.m. on Good Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Trap Bar at Grand Targhee Resort. Free. GrandTarghee.com.