Greeley musician plays for keeps

By Scott Hartman

                  Ben’s Puchalski guitar rips into a funky groove that hangs steady. Without the slightest thought, listeners stop all conversations and turn their head to see what is causing them to tap their feet. It’s as though the patrons of the Jager bar in Greeley are powerless to the music’s command to move. Miraculously there’s only one man playing all parts of the song and enabling them to be looped and recorded. While keeping his guitar close to his chest, Puchalski wraps around the stage and approaches the microphone. In an instant everyone hears him speak, “My name is Ben Pu and we’re glad to have you here.”

Members of Ben Pu and Crew in high school.
Ben Pu and Crew members have known each other since high school, when this photo was taken. The band includes, from left, drummer Matt Schoole , guitarist Ben Puchalski and bassist Chris Manichanh. Photo courtesy of Ben Puchalski

                  Puchalski is one of Greeley’s most well known musicians and it’s more than common to see a good crowd on its feet when he plays.
                  “I think it’s important to know your venues and know what they like at those venues. You have to be able to adapt to any kind of setting. I think this is one of the keys to being a good performer,” Puchalski said.
                  Puchalski turned 29 in early March. He has been hacking away at his guitar-playing skills for  more than 10 years.
“It wasn’t until my middle school years that I actually became serious about being a musician. My whole family had been guitar players all my life. There were guitars lying around everywhere when I was growing up,” Puchalski said.
At the end of this summer, Puchalski announced during a show in Greeley that he was officially quitting his job to pursue a career in music. But what does it take to be a full time musician without a job?
                  “You have to utilize different ways to perform as well as trying to budget what you got,” Puchalski said. “There are a lot of moments were the crowd is not into it, the money isn’t really all there, or you end up playing for free because you have to do it for the publicity.”
                  On Mondays, Puchalski walks up to the stage of the Jaeger Bar and introduces some more local talent for an open-mic night which acts as a side gig to his musical endeavors.

Watch an interview with members of Ben Pu and Crew

                  “The bar scene is one of the best places to play at. If you spend time collecting the right equipment you’ll find that you can actually make money hosting open-mic nights without having to drone on and on with the performance aspects of the music.”
            Puchalski has also been trying to get around in his musical group, Ben Pu and Crew, which consists of a Puchalski on guitar and vocals, as well as a drummer and bassist. All the members of the group grew up together in Greeley and have been friends since high school.
               The band plays mostly in Denver, Westminster, Boulder and Fort Collins.
                  The group describes the Greeley-Loveland area as the armpit of Colorado’s music scene and seriously lacking in the music culture. They said Boulder and Fort Collins are real happening spots for music.
                  “You just never know with Fort Collins,” Manichanh said. “It’s a happening place for the music scene but it’s either a hit or a miss. Sometimes it could be hard to get the crowd into your music. Now, Denver is a real test.”
                  When Manichanh and Puchalski speak of Denver one can tell that they regard it as being the “golden ticket” into the fast track of musical stardom. The city of Denver is well known, and there are many venues and opportunities. But it is also very difficult to win the musical affection of this big city.
                  “You pretty much have to bring in your own crowd. People are not willing to walk around and say that they want to check out some new live music. It’s definitely the hardest to get going with, but the best turnouts we’ve ever had have come from down there,” Puchalski said.