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Tripwire making music work

The formation of the band Tripwire isnt the stuff of music legend. They arent four guys who went to a pristine music school together, and there wasnt an original band where just one piece was missing until a certain member came in and made it all click.

Really, it was just a process of somebody knowing somebody else and then finally putting it all together, Bryce Smith, bass player for the group, said.

Now that Smith, drummer Mark Arneson, lead singer Nate VandeVoort and lead guitar and West Fargo grad John Schmidt have put it all together, it seems to be working, as Tripwire has become one of the busiest bands in the region over its first year in existence. For example, the band played 17 dates in June, and followed that up with a solid July that wrapped up with a big show in Fargo.

The group has its roots in Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Smith and Arneson were in Spain together on a trip with MSUMs concert band, and broke away from the group to spend a morning catching some local color. They started talking, and Arneson found out that Smith was part of a local band, then called Indecisive, back home with lead-singer VandeVoort.

I told him to call Nate when we got back home, because we had just lost our drummer and picked up John, Smith said. We spent that morning just talking about music and drinking really bad margaritas. But by the time the day was done I really hoped he would call.

VandeVoort had already contacted Schmidt, looking for a lead guitarist, and with the other twosome, the new band was ready to roll. Together, they started practicing, and formed a relationship with one of Fargos biggest booking agents, Gary Bitzer.

Hes been there for us since we started, and he just does a great job, Schmidt, son of former West Fargo School Board president Brad Schmidt and his wife, Suzanne, said. Hes just a guy whos seen and done it all, and hes really helped us out a lot.

Bitzer has had Tripwire touring around the upper Midwest, playing shows in larger communities like Sioux Falls, S.D., and St. Cloud, Minn., as well as stages in the Lakes Area around Brainerd, Minn. Here, the group is a regular at places like Ricks Bar on Main Avenue and The Windbreak, and theyll add the M&J Saloon, in Schmidts old backyard, to the list this fall.

They recently headlined at the House of Rock at Playmakers last week, arguably the biggest stage on the local scene.

Right now were just trying to get out and play, get our name out there, Schmidt said. Its part of the game. When you start out, you play a lot of what you know. So our music is kind of that 1990s rock and some of the current college rock that weve grown up with. We have some original stuff, but were still working that out right now.

Smith said to be successful in the Fargo area, which is a scene that has spawned several great acts, bands almost have to start out as cover bands in order to build a following. Once thats in place, they can start to mix in originals.

The coolest thing is when you have an original song, and you have those fans that are out there on the floor singing it right along with you, VandeVoort said. Thats kind of a testament to what the fans are like around here. They give you so much support along the way.

Also giving the group some support are some of the group that the members of Tripwire have met along the way. Schmidt said established bands like Superdog and Ded Walleye, which have been on the scene for at least five years, are always ready to give out some advice and help out when a bands in need.

We played a lot of dates with Superdog when we were coming up, and theyd have us come out and do a couple of songs with them almost every time, Smith said. Theyve been a big part of why were building a following.

The band knows that it will take time to reach the next level, playing larger venues and releasing a CD with completely original material. But with three members currently in school (VandeVoort sells cars in Fargo full time), theres time. The band will shift from its weekly schedule of playing Tuesday through Saturdays in the summer to merely weekends during the school year, and will stick closer to home. But, Schmidt said, that will give them time to work on their own songs.

Were looking for some new practice space, and eventually well start to record something, maybe a small demo, he said. Its all part of the process.

Arenson said its good to see local bands, such as 32 Below and others, go on to bigger and better things.

It lets you know that its possible, and youre not just dreaming, he said. It can be done.

Smith agreed, saying that hed like to see Tripwire become a full-time band, but he knows the group will need some breaks.

You have to stick with it, he said. And eventually, something will happen.

The chances are better, VandeVoort added, the longer the group sticks together. As they jell, an opportunity might come from the people they will meet along the way.

Like with anything else, its not what you know, its who you know, he said. There are a ton of great musicians and singers out there. Its just getting that break.

Look for Tripwire at a club near you this fall. The bands complete schedule can be found online at This week, you can catch them at Ricks from Wednesday night through Saturday.