Friday, March 11, 2016 — It was a dark and windy night, but that wasn’t going to stop the audience at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA from living it up. I arrived early in the evening for dinner and dessert (the caramel chocolate brownie was delicious). I was pleasantly surprised to find local musician Jett Pink performing though Happy Hour. Playing guitar and sometimes using a stompbox, Jett blazed through a number of well-known songs from a slew of legendary artists, including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, The Beatles, Neil Young, Elvis Presley, The Eagles, The Band, and The Zombies. It was a pretty appealing selection of songs. I particularly liked his covers of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (which is one I like to play), “Harvest Moon,” and “She’s Not There.” He closed his set with an original song, “Workin’ for Beer.” You can listen to samples of his original music on his website.
The next act on the stage was Lee Boy Simpson, who briefly played an acoustic solo on his Martin guitar before being joined by a second guitar player and a bass player. They played a pretty short set of bluesy, slow rock original songs. The tunes were fairly straightforward, most employing a handful of open chords. I caught one line from the first song the trio played where Lee sang, “Years go quickly and days too slow;” isn’t that the truth! They performed a song that was about “6 weeks old;” I always admire when musicians play something relatively new on stage. However, I found it odd that the two guitar players played in unison for most of the set and was expecting one to take a solo, which didn’t happen until the fourth song. You can get a flavor of Lee’s style with his song “As Lonely As You Are” on Soundcloud.
I had seen the next band, Moonsville Collective once before at the Hotel Cafe and was excited to see them at Saint Rocke. This was a great choice as a warm-up for the headliner Dustbowl Revival as there is enough crossover in genre (both bands have bluegrass-style tunes in their repertoire) that their music can be appreciated by the same crowd of people, without sounding too similar. Moonsville Collective mixes an Americana style in with their bluegrass. The band is made up of members Corey Adams and Ryan Welch, who swap lead vocals and playing guitar and banjo; Sean Kibler on fiddle and background vocals; Dan Richardson on guitar and dobro; Seth Richardson on bass; and Matthew McQueen on mandolin.
They played a solid set of nine songs, kicking it off with a bluegrass instrumental called, “Chickens Hate Heat” from their most recent album, Heavy Howl. Next was the escapist fishing song “In My Mind” from the album Cradle to the Grave. This was followed by a new song called “In the Morning.” I appreciated the lyric writing in their song, “End of the Line,” particularly poignant is the line, “In this past year, too many good folks have been dying.” Another truism was the line “Back on the road there’s nothing but farm towns,” which is certainly what it feels like when you are driving around the rural Midwest.
The song “Big Jimmy” provided an opportunity for some impressive solo runs from Dan Richardson on guitar. Next on their set list was “Always Enough,” which I’m not sure if that is a different song they decided not to play or a code word, but they played the song “Bud Heavy.” They introduced the song “2 Beer Blues” by stating, “This is a song about Long Beach.” This was followed by the lead song from Heavy Howl, “Blue Money Grove;” check the link for their official video. Moonsville Collective finished their set with the song “Millionaires” from Cradle to the Grave, though it was noted on the set list as “Gold Gold.” The band effectively energized the crowd with their infectious music and by the time they finished their set the room was packed.
This marks my third time seeing Dustbowl Revival since last May when I first discovered them. This musically talented, ebullient octet delivers a heavy helping of happy times whenever they perform. The aptly named group genre hops around the music that was popular back in the days of the dust bowl (1930s) — bluegrass, swing, jazz, and blues, but with a fresh, modern flair. They started off the show with the call of “Let’s get ready to dustboooooooowl!” in the style of “let’s get ready to rumble.” The members of the band are Z. Lupetin on vocals and guitar; Liz Beebe on vocals, washboard, and sometimes ukulele; Daniel Mark, mandolin; Connor Vance, fiddle; Matt Rubin, trumpet; Ulf Bjorlin, trombone; James Klopfleisch, bass; and Josh Heffernan on drums.
I was surprised at the number of songs they played that I was not familiar with that night, but it was cool to hear some new songs. Their first song was a new one called “Good Egg” with the line, “He’s just my kind and he’s just my style, he’s a real good egg.” The second song, which the band referred to as a “drinking song,” was “Knock Knock.” Next up was their rollicking cover of the folk song “Old Joe Clark,” which is on their most recent album With a Lampshade On.
They played a couple more new songs. “Busted,” was sung by Liz and had lyrics such as “You think you got something, but you don’t got nothing, honey if you don’t have me.” Next up was a song called “Without You” with a chorus of “bup bah dah dahs.” Then Z. took a moment to teach us the vocal response part of the song “Wrapped Up in My Heart,” from With a Lampshade On. I love how this band gets the audience involved in the music. It makes the show so much fun! Another new tune was “I Decided,” with lyrics, “I must be having a good time” (yes, I was) and “I decided I’m never growing old” (I’ve decided that too).
Dustbowl Revival then ripped into my favorite song from With a Lampshade On, “Ballad of the Bellhop.” I love every little musical bit of this song; each player’s contribution is perfect, especially love the horns in this one. A couple of energetic swing dancers, Marsh and Brit, joined them on the small stage and I spent most of the song worrying about them tripping over the electric cords that ran across the stage (that’s the mom in me). I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of this post.
Next was another song from the recent album With a Lampshade On with powerful vocals by Liz, “Feels Good.” I wonder if the band has thought of shopping that one out for TV commercials? “Feels good, just like it should, feels nice, like paradise” — I can think of several products that might work for. At about this point in the show, amusingly, a Dora the Explorer balloon was tied to Liz’s mic stand in honor of her birthday that day. The band played on with a good foot-stomping, hand-clapping song, “I Don’t Drink Anymore;” “The new year’s coming and I’m looking for a change…”. Some great soloing from Connor and strong support from Daniel on mandolin.
Another new song followed, which they described as a mix of “Fleetwood Mac and Beyoncé;” look out for “The Fire” in the future. Next was a song they have been playing on tour, which hasn’t been recorded yet, “Big Boned Girl.” Then one more new one, “Midnight Rolls Around,” with the line “I’m sick and tired of waiting around for you.” Oh, I think we have all been there! They played “Ain’t My Fault” from With a Lampshade On and Josh laid down a cool drum solo. This song led straight into “Happy Birthday” in honor of Liz. Liz was having a great night and I don’t know if it was just because it was her birthday, but she really seems to have developed into an ultra-confident, powerhouse of a singer. The final song of the set was a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” featuring Connor with some fancy fiddling.
Apologies for lack of photos of those positioned on the far ends of the stage, both left and right, those guys (Ulf, Daniel and Connor, particularly) were lurking in the photographic shadows, as it were, or blocked by microphone stands.
The crowd was enthusiastic at the end of the show and they were not about to let the band leave without an encore. The group came back on stage to play “Lampshade On,” which was met with much appreciation from the audience. This is my 9-year-old son’s favorite song by Dustbowl Revival, because he thinks it is funny. He has been requesting this on the way to school and it is an entertaining way to start the day. We also come up with our own lines of what you can do with your lampshade on.
Dustbowl Revival is on tour all over the United States through the end of July. Hoping to hear some recorded versions of these new songs for the summer!