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Rusty Maples demonstrates why it might be poised for prime time

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Jason Harris

The last two Las Vegas rock bands with followings as big and devoted as Rusty Maples’ local fanbase are both now famous. If Friday’s release party for new EP Make Way at the Bunkhouse is any indication, the indie quintet could be headed toward Killers or Imagine Dragons territory.

The group—think The Lumineers, with a bigger sound—sounded tight as could be throughout its 50-minute set, delighting an enthusiastic crowd that sang along to just about everything. Rusty Maples is incredibly good at showcasing each of its musicians within the greater context of each song, especially the case on new tune “Wake Up Now.”

The brothers Dewane—Blair and Ian—write damn catchy tunes. Lead singer Blair has a dynamic voice and makes a strong connection with the crowd, as demonstrated on new song “Stay Inside.” Guitarist Ian wins most improved band member, showing his prowess on jams like “Monsoon.” Also key to the group’s development have been versatile bassist Mike Weller and drummer Max Plenke. Plenke was dressed as if he were headed off to fight a hobo in an old-timey train yard, but the only thing Boxcar Max beat up on this night was his drum kit, as he poured in song-enhancing fills.

And then there’s the cello. Courtney Waldron has hands that demand your eyeballs’ attention to see the way she plucks her strings. She and her typically classical instrument add a dynamic that helps separate the band from others of its type.

Make Way features one radio-ready song after another; “Runner” has breakthrough potential. Where it falls short: capturing the reckless exuberance Rusty Maples plays with live, one of the essential elements that makes the band so much fun to watch. The band recently returned from a nine-show trek up the West Coast. The rest of the country might get its chance to see them soon enough.

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