Colorado group teases success from ’80s hair band rock

Hairitage headlines Buena Vista’s live music scene this weekend with a performance at 9 p.m. Saturday at The Lariat. The Colorado band with members from Salida and Denver plays classic rock covers with an emphasis on ’80s hair bands.

Martin Epp, bassist for Hairitage, grew up in Salida but moved to Denver in the early ’80s and quickly found his niche in the Denver music scene. As Epp explained, the roots of Hairitage date back to this period and Lionize, a hair/metal band formed in 1986 after members of Helen Killer jumped ship. Epp had just joined the band on bass, and with gigs already booked, Epp and company recruited Rich Kensinger of Maruader as lead vocalist and Steve Van DeWater of Kyte as guitarist.

Lionize toured extensively in the Northwest before the musicians tired of road life and returned to Denver, where Epp said Lionize had a “very successful” five-year run, thanks in part to Kensinger’s vocal talents. “Rich has got a great voice. … He can hit all the higher notes from bands like Journey.”

After the Lionize musicians went their separate ways, Epp moved back to Salida and formed Dogman with drummer Dan Shuford, while Kensinger joined forces with Denver musicians Robb Warnke, Michael Radcliff and Ron Galindo to form rock band Sucker Punch. Both bands proved successful for more than a decade.

By 2012, Epp said, Kensinger had stopped performing, but the members of Lionize got together for a reunion concert that proved quite popular. After that concert, Kensinger started getting back into singing again, and Epp began playing with local musicians Bruce Hayes and Trevor “Bones” Davis about four years ago when complications arose with a Dogman performance slated to take place at Wallbanger’s in Salida. The three musicians formed Hayes, Epp and Bones and had a successful regional run for three years.

Leading up to an Independence Day concert in Salida’s Riverside Park, Epp said Hayes encountered a scheduling conflict that would prevent him from performing, “so we put together Hairitage to play that gig. I contacted Rich, he brought Robb in, and Hairitage was born.” The band has been playing dates in Central Colorado and the Front Range ever since.

Epp said playing at the renovated Lariat has been “unbelievable. I feel so blessed to have The Lariat in BV and the Vic in Salida. … I feel like I won the lottery. … (Lariat owners) Court and Robbie are great. They take such good care of the bands and musicians, and Brother Rob (Lariat sound man) was one of the best sound men in Denver.”

Toby Dunn of Buena Vista, who plays guitar in Salida Din, another Epp and Bones band, will sit in for Warnke for the Saturday show, Epp said, noting that Dunn also played in Dogman.