Turnpike Troubadours Granada Theater Friday, May 25
Friday night, Oklahoma's Turnpike Troubadours and El Paso quarter the Dirty River Boys turned in a ferocious one-two punch that floored not only the packed lower level of the Granada Theater, but proved the newest generation of country and roots music is solid, especially in Texas and Oklahoma.
Kicking off with "Boomtown," Nino Cooper and the rest of the quartet that forms the Dirty River Boys generated a surprising amount of electricity, given how little of it they employ on stage. Banjo, stand-up bass, mandolin and acoustic guitar were the key tools, and their take on bluegrass, folk, country and punk was seamless.
After a few songs, the band continued its musical chairs, as Cooper switched from guitar to mandolin and Marco Gutierrez switched from guitar to stand-up bass. Even Colton James, their Hank Williams Sr. look-a-like bass player, got in on the action and handled lead vocals on a particularly foul-mouthed, honky-tonk stomper. By the time the band performed "Carnival Lights," it felt very much like a Dirty River Boys show.
As the theater became more packed and the movie screen rose again, lead Troubadour Evan Felker and crew kicked into "Every Girl," their most recognizable song, not mention their most rocking. The straw cowboy-hatted Felker exuded the confidence of a lead that's been doing this for longer then the few years he's actually been.
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Even with a fantastic new album out, Goodbye Normal Street, Felker's vocals were still drowned out by the crowd during tunes from their 2010 debut, Diamonds & Gasoline. "7 & 7," "1968," and "Down on Washington" were propelled by fans' backing vocals, and aside from lead guitarist Ryan Engleman, who strutted around the stage gleefully, his Strat bouncing off his leg, the band didn't rely on generating energy by pogo-ing about.
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The group didn't ignore the new record. Felker strapped on the banjo for the album's opener, the Southern gothic "Gin, Smoke, Lies," then "Before The Devil Knows We're Dead." Those numbers, along with much of what the Dirty River Boys gave Friday night, are examples of how a still-young band needn't rely on cheesy love songs or odes to regional beer in order to get a seriously snowballing crowd behind them, especially in a live setting.
Random note: Near the beginning of the set, Felker made what might have been a jocular comment regarding his distaste for the city of Dallas. After a few songs worth of adoration were showered on him, he had clearly altered his stance.
Notebook dump: That the Granada was crowded for such a bill was encouraging for a long-time fan of regional roots and country bands. It was hard not to think back to 2000 and 2001 when pre-Nashville Pat Green or Jack Ingram headlined and "young" bands such as Reckless Kelly or Randy Rogers Band opened.