Dust on the Bottle
If the tiny tourist town of Virginia City was to one day decide it was sick of being a mere historical landmark and wished instead to transform—in all its quirky, Old West wonder—into a musical version of itself, it’d look, and sound, an awful lot like Dust On the Bottle.
The four-piece band, whose roots are hunkered down in Sparks, fit Virginia City like a glove—or more appropriately, a cowboy boot.
Its members, “Big” John Von Nolde, Mike Mantor, Steve “WG” Soots and “Lucky” a.k.a. Mark Ashworth, play off the fact that they may be a little seasoned like the town itself.
“Mentally, we’re probably 14 to 25. Physically? A lot more,” jokes Mantor. But they have enough character and entertainment up their sleeves to make attending a show fun for the whole family.
Their musical style, which consists of both original and cover songs described as “bizarre old country,” is a bit nitty gritty in all the right places, keeping in style with the historical town.
The guys can be as rough and rowdy as the Union Brewery, cracking dirty jokes and getting the crowd going with some dance numbers. Or they can be as family-friendly as the Bonanza Saloon with its arcade games—cleaning-up their humor like a freshly polished horseshoe, and belting out some simple sing-a-long songs.
This interchangeable aspect is one of the very reasons the musicians, all formerly enlisted in other groups, originally decided to take on another. Three of the guys—Von Nolde, Ashworth and Mantor—were members of the infamously trashy band The Saddle Tramps. They realized that as they aged, they had new concerns, namely kids, to take into consideration when penning lyrics and stage banter.
“I wanted to do a project that didn’t have all the dirty stuff in it,” says Von Nolde. “I was known as the dirtiest guy in America, and I didn’t want that label. I got kids—it’s weird. They never even saw [The Saddle Tramps] until they were 18.”
As for Dust On the Bottle, they tread just right. “Very seldom do we step over the line,” says Ashworth. “And when we do, it’s like an old guy putting his toe in the water to see if it’s OK.”
If aging originally planted the seed for a new music group, it was also partly responsible for the reasonably risqué band name.
“I thought it was a slight hint at our ages, without blatantly calling ourselves the Old Guys,” says Von Nolde.
While they may be old, the guys still know how to put on a show. They’ve not only mastered the occasional dirty joke, but they’ve got the coordinated stage costumes down pat. Everything from dressing in red, white and blue for a recent Fourth of July show, to strapping on strait jackets for a Battle of the Bands concert at which they played a country version of the Ramones’ “I Want to Be Sedated.”
The best part of a Dust On the Bottle show? You never know what songs to expect. They may start with Led Zeppelin gone country, switch to a bit of bluegrass or Buck Owens’ “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” and end with a My Morning Jacket track.
Heck, this is Virginia City incarnate. They could even surprise with donkey costumes and the Bonanza theme song.