Liz Cooper and The Stampede earned runner up recognition in NPR’s 2017 Tiny Desk Contest with a performance of “Mountain Man” recorded in a tiny bathroom that forced bassist Grant Prettyman to play his bass standing in the tub. Since then, the band released a well-received live session and a studio album, Window Flowers, to critical acclaim. During their set at Songbyrd, the opening bars of “Mountain Man” brought everyone hanging out in the green room into the crowd.
Liz Cooper’s live performance leaves no hints of her painful shyness. She plays her guitar with physicality and a sense of humor, bending over backwards to peek back at Usher and making good use of the post in the middle of the stage as a boot rest. Near the end of the show, her tambourine seemed to become the conduit for the excess energy spilling over from her guitar solo. She closed the show kneeling in front of her pedalboard, guitar screaming, with her hair and tambourine flying overhead.
Cooper was born and raised outside Baltimore but found her musical home in Nashville’s rock scene alongside acts like Okey Doke, Ron Gallo, and, her Nashville roommate and opening act, Harpooner. With Prettyman on bass and Usher on drums, the Stampede’s rhythm section has an unobtrusive groove that allows Cooper to shine—whether it’s her quieter, finger-picked guitar work, overdriven vocal style, or the fuzzy and psychedelic fringes of her sound that have roots back to The Doors and Jefferson Airplane.
Harpooner opened the show with dramatic piano-driven rock with songs about a winding and unfinished path to sobriety and a ballad inspired by frontman Scott Schmadeke’s childhood listening to Carole King. Schmadeke joined Liz Cooper and the Stampede for an encore cover performance of Estelle’s “American Boy.”
Liz Cooper and The Stampede will continue their headlining tour throughout the US this spring leading up to a performance at Newport Folk Festival in July and opening performances for a Shakey Graves and Dr. Dog tour in the fall.