March 10, 2012

Concert #628 - The Dustbowl Revival at McCabe's Guitar Shop (March 10, 2012)

Tuba solos are not a likely occurrence at McCabe's, but if you frequent the venue as often as I do, don't be surprised if one day you will witness such an event. In my case, it happened last night, on my 302nd concert that I attended there.

Last night's concert is something that will be hard to forget. The proceedings started with the best opening act I have ever seen at McCabe's, hands down. I'm talking about the California Feetwarmers, a collection of eleven young and energetic musicians that brought us to our feet at the end of a fifty-minute set that could have gone on without anyone minding. Seeing eleven musicians on that tiny stage was an event in itself - they managed to coexist peacefully while playing packed together like sardines, albeit no one stood in front of the trombone player (wink-wink).

Their brand of music is a combination of dixieland, traditional jazz, old American music, something like that, done with plenty of smiles and laughter, which instantly produces a very similar response within the crowd. Their range of instruments is stunning - guitars, violin, piano, drums, washboards, tuba, clarinet, trumpet, banjo, trombone, accordion, percussion and possibly a few others. Everyone was great, my favorites were the trumpet player and the clarinetist, named Charles and Chloe, respectively. A little later, Chloe returned to the stage as a member of the Dustbowl Revival.

The California Feetwarmers at McCabe's
The California Feetwarmers at McCabe's
With songs such as "Stardust", "Midnight Hour" and "I Like You", the Feetwarmers kept our feet warm, the by-product of non-stop tapping. The joy of playing music was all over the faces of all players and, when they left the stage, I knew that I had seen something truly special. I also did some math: 150 seats, 15 bucks per ticket, that's a gross of $2,250 for the night. If the opening act gets half of that, which they probably don't, that would amount to roughly one hundred dollars for each musician. Draw your own conclusions.

After a short break, out came the headliners, the Dustbowl Revival, ten souls in all - their music is described on their web site as "gypsy swing, blues, dixieland, bluegrass, and homemade jug-band music". Just like the opening act, these guys played their hearts out and had lots of fun in the process. So did we, the spectators. 

The Dustbowl Revival at McCabe's
The Dustbowl Revival at McCabe's
Other than Matt Rubin, Caitlin Doyle and Zach Lupetin, who is the undisputed leader of the collective,  I do not know any other names, but without exception, they are all great musicians. There was no pre-determined set list - the songs were selected by popular consensus, right there on the spot. Here are a few titles I remember:
Orange Blossom Special
When The Saints Go Marching In
John The Revelator
Holy Ghost Station
What You're Doin' To Me
You Can't Always Get What You Want (encore)
The highlight of the evening was Zach Lupetin's announcement toward the end of the show: "And now I'd like to attempt something that maybe has not been done here ... has anyone ever seen twenty people playing on this stage?", a question that served as an invitation for the California Feetwarmers to come down and share the stage with the revivalists. Well, they shared more than just the stage, as they took positions on the stairs and even floor, right in front of the stage, it was a blast. There were nineteen musicians in all, not twenty, but even so, that was the most I have ever seen at McCabe's, by a landslide. So how do you top that, McCabe's? Book the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? 

The Dustbowl Revival and the California Feetwarmers sharing the stage
The Dustbowl Revival at McCabe's
The Dustbowl Revival and the California Feetwarmers sharing the stage
The two bands played together for half an hour or so as if they were one single ensemble and everyone had fun. The Dustbowl Revival came back for a one-song encore that also served as the introduction of the band. The song happened to be "You Can't Always Get What You Want", the old Rolling Stones song - not your typical American traditional music sing-along and there were lots of smiles in the room when Zach started singing "I saw her today at a reception ..."

The show ended late, at 10:45 PM. I immediately bought two Dustbowl CDs, on sale for a grand total of fifteen bucks. The salesman happened to be Zach Lupetin himself and it felt great shaking his hand. A few minutes later I was out in the street where, to my surprise, the show was still going on: sitting on the bed of a pickup truck were three members of the Feetwarmers just playing away, to the delight of a few fans.

The show goes on on Pico Boulevard
Concert announcer Mikki Itzigsohn
My friends Steve (left) and Bill, who first tipped me off about the Dustbowl Revival
Zach Lupetin, after the show


  1. Dear Gabe,
    Thank you for your many kind words. We Feetwarmers had a fabulous time playing that night. To be honest, it was our first venture as an 11-piece. We're glad you liked it.
    Per comments in your 3rd paragraph: we appreciate your care in counting and listing our instrumentation. The only one omitted was violin. We told her not to take it personally. The trumpet and clarinet players are named Charles and Chloe, respectively. And, yes, Chloe lives in St. Louis for the time being, but she's actually from Los Angeles and proud to be native.
    Thanks again for your attention and compliments. Music reviews that begin with mention of tubas are as rare as tuba solos at McCabe's. We hope to see you many more times in many more hundreds of documented concerts.
    Till next time,
    California Feetwarmers

    1. Hello Feetwarmers! Thanks for your constructive comments, I have made the necessary changes. Would love to see you guys again!