No one likes a languid performance. An artist strumming a six-string on a stool makes for a rather, well, dull evening. What makes a concert experience truly amazing is the emotions felt by the crowd, if the band has no energy then the crowd has no energy.
Luckily, last Tuesday at The Beachland Ballroom was anything except languid. The Dustbowl Revival, along with support act Maura Rogers & the Bellows, were incredibly lively.
If you can’t take off the summer to tour with The Dustbowl Revival don’t worry, you can see Maura Rogers & the Bellows right here in Cleveland. The Bellows, for short, is all about moving their audience’s hearts and souls. From Maura’s personally-written love ballads to a raucous cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”, the Bellows almost had me too distracted to do my job.
Ms. Rogers may have held center stage but the shine from Meredith Pangrace’s accordion caught everyone’s eye. Having an accordion on stage is courageous; I easily felt the energy and passion as she used it to its full potential. Utilizing the accordion’s wide range, accompanied by a bass guitar, this outfit easily flowed from alternative folk to straight up rock ‘n roll all night. The modelesque bassist Quinn Hyland strummed perfectly alongside rhythms from Jeff Babinski, ably placed behind the kit.
For unique melodies and musical storytelling, check out Maura Rogers & the Bellows at MauraRogersMusic and take a peek at that shiny accordion in the photos above!
Dustbowl Revival’s song “Hard River Gal” seems to be anything but angelic. Telling a story about a woman you don’t take home to your mother, the tune belies the angelic homespun look the band portrays. “She the kind of woman, she like to drive real fast…” and “if you come home late she gonna beat ya with a garden hose,” are lyrics in sharp juxtaposition to the vibe they were putting out. The crowd really jumped to their feet when all eight members of the band came to the front of the stage and gave a performance that would make even Pulitzer-snubber Dylan raise an eyebrow or two.
It’s been ten years since founding member Zach Lupetin posted an ad on Craigslist for musicians. Since then, the outfit has seen roster changes but seems to have found a group of steady, talented musicians with impeccable enthusiasm. Finding anyone musically talented and willing to spend countless months on the road touring can be challenging, yet Lupetin has managed to gather these eight incredible people into a unique band.
With a founding member of the Irish-American troubadours Flogging Molly helping them, The Dustbowl Revival has nearly mastered mixing their exceptional Americana/Folk style with other genres; their first albumBusted, elegant jazz vocals courtesy of Liz Beebe are accompanied by R&B blasts from trumpeter Matt Rubin and trombonist Ulf Bjorlin. I never knew the mandolin could be played in a hip-hop fashion until I heard Daniel Mark create sounds that would make Snoop proud. Nostalgia crept in as I watched every head in The Beachland rock to the funky cover of “Cupid’s Chokehold” by Gym Class Heroes.
Connor Vance’s fast fiddle interplayed nicely with James Klopfleisch’s funky bass notes. Even though Connor towered over the other members, it was difficult to see him. The Beachland is a wonderful venue but the stage wasn’t quite large enough for every member to be perfectly seen. The fiddle is one of my favorite instruments so when Zach and Daniel moved aside to showcase Connor’s solo my ears perked up. Connor may not have danced as well as Liz but his soulful sound was truly infectious.
Even though drummer Joshlyn Heffernan was barely visible over the kit I didn’t need to see him to distinguish him from the rest of the band; he was loud enough to keep the band on tempo and upbeat.
The entire concert was laughs and dancing from start to finish. It’s no surprise that L.A Weekly dubbed them the City of Angels’ “Best Live Band.” There wasn’t a single concertgoer who wasn’t dancing, clapping, or singing. Even people from the tavern couldn’t help but join the fun, halfway through the concert the room was so full it was approaching should-we-alert-the-fire-marshall territory.
I can’t take off work to become a full-blown Liz-and-Zack follower, but I’ve already downloaded a few songs to my phone for the times I want to get a little folksy. If you’re into alternative, soulful music, check out The Dustbowl Revival the first chance you get.
Listen to a few of their infectious tunes at www.dustbowlrevival.com.
You won’t be sorry you did. Unless you live on the second floor and your neighbors don’t like the sounds of toe tapping all night.
Then, never mind.
Images and Review by Courtney A. Ramey