February 17, 2010 | 11:00am
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The Hype: Dusty Rhodes and the River Band's distinctive brand of indie-informed, neo-classic rock has made them one of the most celebrated bands to emerge from Orange County in recent years. Their past two albums--2007's First You Live and 2009's Palace and Stage--were released on LA-based SideOneDummy (Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello) and met with strong reviews. Dusty Rhodes and the River Band are a seasoned touring act, as well, spending more time playing nationally--with acts ranging from Los Lobos to fellow OCers the Aquabats--than locally. The Gypsy Lounge quickly filled when they took the stage shortly past 9:30 p.m. Their set was part of the OC Music Awards final showcase series.
The Show: Dusty Rhodes and the River Band's 30 (or so) minute performance teemed with verve and the kind of welcoming warmth that makes attendees become instant fans. Singer Dustin Apodaca's sells each lyric with a winning exuberance while playing keyboard parts that often resemble those of a churchy organ. He even managed to work his accordion into the mix without it ever smacking of gimmickry.
The six-piece delivered a near-perfectly paced set of richly textured rockers and subdued ballads marked by detailed lyrics that avoid annoyingly trendy cleverness and greeting card cloyingness--even if they do smell of patchouli on occasion. The sextet's secret weapon remains violinist Andrea Babinski. Her stirring string work slides in and out at just the right moments, recalling the spot-on augmentation provided by Scarlet Rivera on Bob Dylan's 1976 Desire album and Rolling Thunder Revue of the same period.
The Crowd: Mostly 20somethings peppered with a few folks in their 30s and beyond. On balance, an attractive, well-dressed bunch who seemed to be there as much for the music as the scene--and/or to be seen.
Overheard: "I think they just played the theme from The Wonder Years," said a concertgoer when Dusty Rhodes and the River Band band performed an instrumental snippet that sounded vaguely familiar.