by Rob van Alstyne
Beau Kinstler is a musical sponge, ready and willing to absorb whatever music comes his way—and he’s just found himself in the middle of the damned ocean thanks to a regular Thursday night residency in the cozy confines of the 400 Bar. “The 400 Bar was always sort of an icon to me and I never really thought I was going to play there,” claims Kinstler, a laidback Minnesota native and high school classmate of innumerable current Twin Cities musicians in the hallowed halls of St. Paul Central High School during the late’ 90s. “I got put on a show through some friends of friends opening up for Ela in early 2003 and got invited back by the 400 Bar and it just went from there. That was really the first real show that I even played in town.”
Download an mp3 of Beau Kinstler’s song Caroline and Beautiful Stars Shine.
spent his college years sporadically playing the coffee house scene of California
at UC Davis, it wasn’t until Kinstler returned to his roots that he began
pursuing music in earnest. He wasted little time getting to work, however, quickly
cutting a no frills debut album, Positive, and gigging in earnest. A deft
but never showy acoustic guitarist with a mild mannered, nearly conversational
singing style, Kinstler makes the kind of chilled-out, slightly bluesy folk-rock
that doesn’t boldly announce its presence in your house so much as casually
curl up next to you on the couch.
Alongside his perfectly simpatico backing band (bassist Darin Rieland and drummer
Scott Schulte), Kinstler’s slowly been assembling a catalog of original
material as comfortable and familiar as your favorite pair of broken-in shoes.
The inherent danger with tradition-bound singer/songwriter material like this
of course is coming up with something original to say. And although similarities
with other young folk stars who got their start on the 400 Bar stages are hard
to ignore (Kinstler’s voice recalls Robert Skoro, and his optimistic and
direct storytelling style is clearly indebted to Mason Jennings), Kinstler injects
enough of his own voice into the proceedings to keep things from getting too familiar.
Kinstler’s highly aware of the inherent difficulties in putting a new spin
on the sensitive-guy-with-a-guitar tradition. “Every time I’ve been
heavily inundated with somebody musically as a fan, I’ve sat down and tried
to learn their songs or to write a song in their sort of voice,” admits
Kinstler. “But often times I find that as I try to do that it ends up spawning
an idea for something else. I never really end up learning the song in the first
place—I’m really bad at covers (laughs). Even when I tried to sing
like other people, though, I ended up developing something a little bit differently.
It’s only been over the last couple of years that I’ve realized how
important finding your own unique voice is. What’s sort of come to me over
the last three or four years is to really just try and have anything I create
musically be recognizable as me. I still have to fight sometimes. I’ll hear
some sort of affected tone come in and step back and be like, ‘hey, that’s
not me.’ But generally I think I’ve done an OK job of that.”
While putting the final touches on his dual album follow-up to Positive
(tentatively titled Ocean/Horizon and spanning 18 songs, 80 minutes and
two discs, look for a self-release this spring), Kinstler continues his weekly
Thursday night spot at the 400, learning the ropes of the music game from the
various seasoned travelers who swing through.
“There’s nothing that can compare to being able to open for those
artists that just do it the right way,” claims Kinstler. “To see up
close and first hand the people coming through on the road who are just unshowered,
plugging in their broken equipment and going for it. Just their presence and way
of putting themselves together in order to put on a show that people love—you
learn a lot from that. Opening up for a guy like [Nashville alt. Country artist]
Bobby Bare Jr., his fans are just crazy for him. I’ve gotten to get a really
intimate view of a lot of really great people. It’s almost been like an
apprenticeship in a lot of respects.” ||
Beau Kinstler plays on Thu. Feb. 3 at the 400 Bar with Straight Eights
and Flock of Doug. 9 p.m. 21+. $5. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. 612-332-2903. Kinstler
will be playing every Thursday in February and March, check 400Bar.com
Find out more about Beau Kinstler on his official website
Download an mp3 of Beau Kinstler’s song Caroline
and Beautiful Stars Shine.