Tonight: Blues band Trampled Under Foot takes over Moondog's

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The Schnebelen siblings -- better known as Trampled Under Foot -- left Kansas City late last night with intentions of pulling into Blawnox sometime this afternoon.

What better place to start a tour than Moondog's?

"We played Moondog's last year. It's a great place. I love it," said Danielle Schnebelen, talking on her cell phone while she and her brothers Nick and Chris steered their way through Ohio. "We were talking about how intimate it is and everybody is right up there on you. And they're there for the music. They're not there to hang out or hook up."

Not that Trampled Under Foot hasn't played in large houses and festivals. They've been playing together for 10 years and have built up a healthy fan base for their hard-rocking blues.

"I like the big stages and it's great to move around and see a sea of people," Ms. Schnebelen said. "But I think I'm just more of an intimate-type of person. I really enjoy being able to connect with people on a personal level. When they're 10 feet away from you, you can just grab a hold of each other's souls and just go on a journey, you know?"

OK now, don't be afraid. She isn't really going to grab your soul and leave your beer and Blawnox behind. These artistic types always talk like that.

The Schnebelens grew up steeped in music, specifically the Kansas City blues scene. Their parents were in a band. Their grandmother was a big band singer.

But it wasn't like an Osmond Family band. They actually had been involved in separate music ventures for several years before they decided to unite.

"We first played Dec. 30, 2002, but we didn't start really hitting it super, super hard until a couple years later because Nick was still living in Philadelphia," Ms. Schnebelen said. "Technically, this is my fifth band, but this is definitely the longest by far.

"Being in the music industry, we meet a lot of babies of the blues or kids that were kind of just born into it. But I don't meet a lot of musicians that play with their families. Most of the cats that I meet, they either come from musical backgrounds or they have absolutely no history of music whatsoever. It's either black or white. It's kind of weird.

"Ten years speaks volumes. I mean, we fight just like any other band does, but what's important to remember is that when we're on the road, doing 4,000 miles in 10 days, there's really no room for the egos and the bickering and stuff. When we first started out, we fought all the time. We were young. Now that we've all grown up and we're in our 30s, it's like 'Hey, what's more important -- the show or the egos?'"

So what's it like playing with your brothers?

"When we play together, there's an unmistakable energy that can't be duplicated," Ms. Schnebelen said. "I have a lot of great times with other musicians, but there's nothing like looking over and seeing your family there, someone you've been with since birth. If things go the way they are, we'll be together till death and that's a beautiful thing. It's something most people don't get to experience.

"Especially with Chris and I, you know, the rhythm section, they have to be able to communicate very easily together, even when they're not siblings. I can look at him and do a shoulder twitch and he knows it's going to be a break or a breakdown. Or I'll just scratch my head and he'll know to just pound 'em like a caveman. But that isn't necessarily because we're family. It's because he's a perceptive person and it takes a lot of paying attention."

Ms. Schnebelen said it's important to pay attention to the crowd, reading them instead of a set list.

"Being a musician, being a front person, you do have responsibility to put on a show and entertain people," she said. "I don't mean doing high kicks and can-can dancing, but you have to perceive the vibe. If the whole crowd is up and dancin' and rockin', it's not time to do a slow ballad. It's time to keep them up and wear their asses out. And then snap 'em with a ballad."

Most of the songs played by Trampled Under Foot are their own. For them, speaking the language of the blues comes naturally.

"Singing the blues -- it's just like my soul speaking, my journal," Ms. Schnebelen said. "I like being that vulnerable, opening up to people. It's really weird being so intimate with strangers. But my songs are. When I do covers, I do covers that I can personally relate to. I don't lie. I mean, why do that?"

So even if you saw Trampled Under Foot the last time they were here, you might want to consider seeing them again.

"Every gig, every tour is different," Ms. Schnebelen said. "We never play the same set list. You don't want to get into a routine, because routines start getting boring. I don't ever want anyone walking away from one of our shows saying, 'You know, that was the same set they played last time I saw them.'

"Tonight, it's going to be a great time. You're going to see just a hard-rockin', booty-swingin' blues band."

Moondog's is at 378 Freeport Road. The show starts at 7:30 and the cover is $10.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to:


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