Over The Weekend: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at Dada

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
May 27, 2011

Better than: making a left turn, and then a left turn, and then a left turn...

It speaks to the power of the Internet/new music business model when a band with only four officially-released tracks is able to embark on a headlining cross-country tour.

But that's just what Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. was able to do at Dada on Friday night -- and to a decently sized crowd no less.

It helps, of course, when the band's name alone is quirky and engaging enough to suck in passersby.

Local hip-hop artist galleryCat admitted as much when I ran into him on Dada's patio: He hadn't heard a single note of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.'s music beforehand, but was compelled to check them out based on name alone.

If this was the case for a majority of the room, then those in attendance got more than their money's worth. With bubble machines, strobe lights, matching suits and giant wooden, lighted Js and Rs propped up across the stage -- all triggered with foot pedals operated by the band members -- the stage setup at Dada felt like that of a much a larger room, perhaps one the size of a Granada Theater.

Being two weeks away still from the release of the band's debut full-length, the crowd seemed appreciative-yet-unfamiliar with most of the night's material. Lone exceptions were, unsurprisingly, the four songs from the group's Horse Power EP (including their almost shoe-gazey cover of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," which also might have been the most popular tune of the night) and a cover of Gil Scott-Heron's "We Almost Lost Detroit," which the Detroit natives performed in honor of the spoken word performer's passing earlier in the day.

As expected from a band with so little material released, though, the set felt somewhat short. But perhaps Josh Epstein's constant switching between guitar, bass, keyboards, tom drum and saxophone, mixed with the duo's focus on persistent, tight harmonies just made it feel that way.

The night ended with a perfectly fitting encore, too: After playing seemingly everything they knew the band knew they said "goodnight" and quickly jumped offstage. The crowd began unison chants of "One more song! One more song!" as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. begrudgingly took the stage and offered to play one last number, but only if the audience agreed to dance their asses off. As the group burst into a gorgeous cover of Steve Winwood's "Higher Love," the entire place went nuts, with more folks dancing than any other point in the night.

Critic's Notebook
Random Note:
Esptein said the group had been keeping up with the NBA playoffs and were going to be rooting for the Mavericks in the finals, before adding, "Fuck Lebron so hard" to further drive the point home.

By The Way: Curly-haired Dale Jr. Jr. member Daniel Zott is a dead ringer for 30 Rock actor Judah Frielander -- especially with his hipster glasses and trucker hat on.

Random Note: Another high point in the night came when Esptein joined opening band Generationals onstage, playing saxophone on their song "When They Fight They Fight" while wearing his Nesquick NASCAR jacket. 

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