BY BECKA DELANEY
After touring across the country, Orange County's Dusty Rhodes and the River Band returned to Southern California with a visit to the Echoplex last night; playing material off their latest record (and Side One Dummy debut), Palace and Stage. After first witnessing the band's folk rock from their first LP First You Live at a New Year's Eve bash this past year, I felt the glimmer of hope I felt back then multiplied as I stood in awe as each note seduced my ear drums.
Formed back in 2003, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band are passionate but playful artists who incorporate a variety of musical styles that radiate both individuality and innovation. The band is comprised of six multi-instrumentalists: Dustin Apodaca (vocals, keyboards and accordion), Kyle Divine (vocals, guitar, harmonica, whistle), Andrea Babinski ("Dre;" violin, mandolin, vocals); Edson Choi (vocals, guitar, banjo and sitar), newest member Brad Babinski (bass) and Eric Chirco (drums).
Their music's sort of like a bag of Skittles: each instrument a color, and the genres of bluegrass, country, rock and classical influences are the rainbow of fruit flavors. With every drum beat, key stroke, guitar riff and violin strum echoing throughout the club, the dedicated Dusty herd huddled along the stage, proudly belting their favorite melodies.
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Slow song "Andy" created somber energy, with the fringed fiddling of Dre's delicate fingers along with the desperate, exasperated tone of Divine's vocals (about a lost love) brought closeness among each music enthusiast. Bodies stuck together like an ocean wave; with outstretched hands grasping their cell phones and cameras, capturing the band's momentum.
During the county/bluegrass song "Then You Pass," a mob of dudes excitedly pushed past, cheering drunkenly at the music while deciding to chuck an empty Tecate can at the band, almost decking Divine in the face. Divine seemed a little shocked but undeterred, and continued with the set as if nothing had happened.
During the band's popular psychedelic folk song "Street Fighter", the animated Apodaca spiced things up when he flipped his keyboard to the side and played it like an '80s-style keytar. He continued to turn the keyboard (while still playing), maintaining perfect balance without falling over. Apodaca showed his goofy side when sprinting into the air for a couple of milliseconds, clutching onto a tambourine like a pony.
It's always great to hear a band with quality recorded material, but even better to see them come through live. At the Echoplex, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band created an atmosphere of polished harmonies and instrumental awesomeness while maintaining a playful attitude both on and off stage.