Dusty Rhodes and the River Band's 'Last Waltz'

Having announced last year they were calling it a day—at least partly because of singer/keyboardist Dustin Apodaca's ultimately unsuccessful campaign for a spot on the Anaheim City Council—local legends Dusty Rhodes and the River Band will see out their nearly decade-long existence Friday with a farewell show at the House of Blues that features a number of local performers.

Kyle Divine, co-founder of the group along with Apodaca, recently reflected on the band's decision. He had just come from a visit to Disneyland with his family. “No Star Tours!” he noted with a laugh. “The line was way too long, and when you have small kids, they don't have much patience.”

Family life is one of the many factors that has led to the group's final show, with Divine now looking for other ways to satisfy his muse. “I'm definitely in career mode—my focus has shifted to work and supporting my family—but music is in my soul,” he says. “I'll be writing and recording at home, but I don't think I'll get a band together and get a van and schlep around on tour. I'm done. If I can still record, great, and the Internet is wonderful for that. You can record at home and release on iTunes. If the public buys it, awesome; if not, you didn't drop $10,000!”

His passionate love of roots music from all over the map—from early folk and blues to modern rock & roll, all of which fed into the music of Dusty Rhodes—remains. As the group has been a mix of individual songwriters contributing to a collective voice, trading instruments almost all the time, it's not surprising that Divine looks back to another collective group as a particular inspiration for both himself and Apodaca.

“This band was started around a mutual love of the Band, particularly the movie The Last Waltz,” he says. “Dustin and I were obsessed with it; we'd just watch the DVD and play music and think, 'Man, we want to be in a band like that!' It seems apropos to go out in the same fashion that the Band did, with all those other bands and musicians with them, and it makes sense. We do plan on filming it, but we're not planning on releasing it or anything like that. If we get useful material, it'll end up online in some form or fashion.”

The other musicians joining them on the bill have direct ties to the group. Some, such as the Field Trip and the Rambles, feature former or current members of the group. Others, such as Yellow Red Sparks and the Steelwells, have been longtime friends and bill-sharers.

Divine recalls the first time the group played with Yellow Red Sparks: “We first met them in 2003 in a church in downtown Los Angeles, where we all ended up playing for no one! But we hit it off, and that was important.”

Reflecting on the final years of Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, Divine concludes the band ended on a high note with their self-titled third album. Recorded and released after a bad experience with their former label, SideOneDummy, it “was made without a label, produced on our own, cost a fraction of our second album [Palace and Stage], sounded way better and was a much better reflection of our collective selves,” he says.

Looking at the various paths that the core band members are all pursuing now, Divine sounds a note of pride. “Drea [Babinski, violinist] is off playing with the Elected as well as other bands; Edson [Choi, guitarist] has a band of his own, and they're working on recording something; [bassist] Brad [Babinski] is in the Rambles; Dustin is in the Field Trip currently and working on new songs and writing a record of his own,” he says. “The beauty of it is we had five songwriters in the band, so we're going off to do five records of our own. It'll be interesting to hear what everyone's doing in a couple of years.”


This article appeared in print as “The Next Last Waltz: Catching up with Kyle Divine of the soon-to-be-disbanded Dusty Rhodes and the River Band.”

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