FoCo native Stelth Ulvang brings energetic folk to The Whiskey

Joel Thompson

Woman plays guitar on stage
Singer-songwriter Molly Mehlsack opens for Stelth Ulvang at The Whiskey in Old Town Sept. 25. Ulvang is best known as a pianist for The Lumineers, but his talents extend in his solo work as well. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

Fort Collins native Stelth Ulvang performed an intimate but energetic folk show at The Whiskey on Sept. 25.

Opening for Ulvang was Colorado State University’s own singer-songwriter and neurologic music therapy student Molly Mehlsack.

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Ulvang is a multi-instrumentalist and has been a member of Denver indie folk band The Lumineers since 2011.

Due to the heavy touring schedule of The Lumineers, Ulvang’s shows are an uncommon occurrence.

“I only pretty much play small shows that I can set up a couple weeks in advance,” Ulvang said. “If there’s a house show nearby, that’s what I’ll do on the road.”

These small settings provide an intimate experience with an enthralling performance from Ulvang, one that he rarely gets to experience himself.

“I played in New Jersey (with The Lumineers) in front of 35,000 people, and I didn’t know a single person,” Ulvang said. “But tonight we got a lot of people, despite not having a promo or anything, and I knew a decent amount of them.”

Ulvang’s style is folk-based but is more of a mix in its genre and sound. His music isn’t confined in any way, allowing punk, rock, psychedelic, country and other influences to take the center of his unique sound.

His personality makes the show. He brings such strong energy and enthusiasm that I had no choice but to dance and sing.” -Rachel Stevenson, audience member

Part of this unique sound is his individual lyric style. Not only do his songs cover a variety of themes and topics, but the tone and the voice he encompasses constantly change as well. The wide range Ulvang presents is due in part to how long he’s been touring and writing music.

“I like writing songs,” Ulvang said. “I sit in hotel rooms and I travel. … I try to be as honest as possible.”

Another appealing aspect of Ulvang’s performance is his on-stage presence. He was able to have interactions with crowds that few others would rarely get, such as members of the audience playing piano for a song or singing background vocals with Ulvang.

“His personality makes the show; he brings such strong energy and enthusiasm,” audience member Rachel Stevenson said. “I had no choice but to dance and sing.”

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The intimate experience of Ulvang’s show was only highlighted by Mehlsack’s solo acoustic set.

“I’m not used to playing by myself; I’m used to playing with a band,” Mehlsack said. “It’s been cool to see people that actually want to see me play with my guitar and (hear) what I have to say.”

Mehlsack is a deeply personal lyricist, covering love, mental issues and the hardships of life. She pairs these usually somber tones with her beautiful and rich voice. Her songs have something about them that can draw an audience into her world and life.

Along with Mehlsack’s knack for captivating audiences is the support from the local music scene. A year before this show at The Whiskey, Mehlsack had her first Colorado show at the Downtown Artery.

“Its really cool to me because I feel like people really pay attention,” Mehlsack said. “It’s different from what I’m used to in a big city. People here really support the music of Fort Collins.”

Ulvang is gearing up for an upcoming year-long tour with The Lumineers, in which he’s hoping he’ll have the time to play smaller shows and give audience members a deeply personal folk show.

Joel Thompson can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @probably_joel