“This is my first drink of the night,” Dustin Apodaca said with a smile last night at the Bunkhouse raising a half glass of something brown as he unloaded equipment into the bar before the band’s headlining set in the third slot of the evening.
Whether he meant that as a good thing or bad, I couldn’t tell, but the lack of booze didn’t matter much. Orange Country, Calif.-based Dusty Rhodes and the River Band rocked and warbled through a full steam ahead set packed with accordion licks, frenetic folk tunes and just-try-not-to-dance good old-fashioned rock featuring tracks off 2007’s First You Live and new songs off their upcoming album to be released this April.
By the time Dusty and crew launched into their final number, an epic wanderer of a song, the Bunkhouse was greased, primed and gleefully at the mercy of the band’s Southern folk rock marching orders.
“What happened in November is what shoulda happened in November,” Dusty said in a preacher’s twang, building momentum for the inevitable crescendo. Curls trembling, he led the crowd through a nearly religious experience. Lighters were lit and raised to the ceiling, the violin wailed and it seemed that Dusty might start speaking in tongues at any moment as he proselytized with the conviction of a Baptist reverend.
When the final notes had shuttered into quiet I felt cleansed and sorely in need of a glass of whiskey.
“We’ll be back, goddammit!” shouted Dusty by way of goodbye. I half expected the crowd to yell, “Amen!”