On Saturday, February 27, 2016 I caught The Dirty River Boys playing at Hotel Cafe. Having been encouraged to attend by a friend, I knew nothing about this band going into the show, other than they hailed from Texas. They played a good mixture of songs in varying tempos that I would categorize under the Americana genre, with flavorings of cowpunk, country, and even Celtic rock. Guitar players Nino Cooper and Marco Gutierrez, and bass player Colton James, traded off singing lead for various songs. Often times the whole group was singing together, producing solid harmonies and sonorous vocals.
The band started off at a blazing pace with, “Road Song.” I was immediately struck by the ferocity with which drummer Travis Stearns attacked the cajón — laying the beat down strong from the get-go. The second song, “In These Times,” started off like a ballad, with Colton singing alone, but then the whole band jumped in and brought the tempo up. (Side note: first time I have ever seen a bass draped with animal skins!) For “Boomtown,” Nino brought out his mandolin and sang lead. This was another rocking fast number and the audience was getting into the music at this point (whooping, clapping, dancing). For the catchy, foot-stomping “Thought I’d Let You Know,” Marco took the lead vocals. It was at this point in the set that I felt like the band has a sound that was much too big for the Hotel Cafe. Their music needs to sweep across larger theaters and outdoor festival sound stages.
The band slowed it down for a Dylan-esque ballad, “Union Painters,” with Nino on lead and everybody else harmonizing beautifully. They announced they were going to “play a real fast song” in honor of the birthday of their tour manager, Luke. The band ripped into a cowpunk kind of song, “Letter to Whoever” with Marco singing lead. Travis was absolutely on fire on the drum kit and Nino played a lightning fast guitar solo. Nino led the vocals on “Highway Love,” a vocal call/music response kind of song, like a Texan answer to Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”
There followed the Celtic rock-tinged song “Sailed Away,” which was heavy on drums and had me expecting a fiddle player to appear at any moment to join in. Next we were getting down and dirty with “Down by the River,” kicked off on vocals by Marco, with Nino taking a verse. We were back to the influences of the Emerald Isle for “Raise Some Hell Tonight” and quite a few people were dancing to this one. I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of this blog post.
It seems the audience would have liked the party to have gone on longer, but Hotel Cafe squishes the musicians into one hour time slots. The band finished the night with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ song, “Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which had the audience singing along on the chorus. It was a rip-roaring good night of music and I was pleased as punch to see this band live. Check out their self-titled CD, available for purchase from their web site or in the iTunes Store.