Jazz hands and bands on the verge

More kazoo, more better: Zach Lupetin’s kazoo is no ordinary kazoo. It’s a Wazoo—a crazy-loud kazoo with a built-in megaphone.

Last Thursday night at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, Lupetin’s Wazoo was one of many instruments onstage. I can’t promise an exhaustive list, but there was at least one guitar, bass, drum kit, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, trombone, tambourine, ukulele, washboard and harmonica. And maybe something else.

But I can promise that the Dustbowl Revival, Lupetin’s rootsy collective from Venice, Calif., puts on a killer show. There’s a reason LA Weekly named the group Best Live Band in 2013—few can transform a seated, polite audience into one of raucous dancers within an hour.

Indeed, despite opener MerryGold’s solid set, only a few of us took to the dance floor when Dustbowl took to the stage. The vast majority sat around the periphery, too shy to even consider getting buck wild. One gentleman even told us that if we were going to stand up and block his view, we better dance.

He needn’t worry.

I witnessed—and, OK, partook—in some weird, old-school dance hybrids. Not quite the Charleston, Lindy Hop or jitterbug. Not quite jogging in place with jazz hands either. The speakeasy vibes were present, as Dustbowl’s eclectic sound turned toward 1930s hot swing.

Sometimes it got hokey, but I didn’t mind. Whether it was the songs or the outfits—suspenders, vests, bow ties, fedoras—the show wasn’t just a concert. It was a narrative.

“You’re going to go on a horseback ride now,” Lupetin crooned into the mic.


“Through the dust bowl.”


“The sun is setting on the horizon.”

Trombone solo.


Finally, square dancing ensued and quickly devolved into sloppy hugs.

For the last song, three Dustbowl members jumped offstage. My attention initially fixated on Lupetin, skipping around with his guitar on my right. Suddenly, I realized the trumpeter, Matt Rubin, was on my right, and I was sweating so close to him, that I felt like a creep. But there was opportunity for redemption. For the encore, all seven Dustbowl members joined the audience for an acoustic jam. We swayed back and forth, arm around arm, one big happy family.

After the show, the band talked about hitting up Midtown—it wasn’t even midnight yet—as handrolled cigarettes were passed around. Turns out the bassist for the evening is a UC Davis grad. Someone asked if Dustbowl Revival would be interested in playing the university’s Whole Earth Festival in May. We can only hope.

Lupetin said the band will definitely, at least, return to the City of Trees: “Sacramento is way hipper than we thought.”

Thanks. We know.

Soon-to-be radio hits: Saturday brought me back to Harlow’s. After reading last week’s music feature about Nashville indie band Wild Cub (“Tiny, beautiful things” by Brian Palmer, SN&R Music, January 23), how could I not?

The house was packed, and the crowd diverse. Children hugging mommys’ legs, easily excitable teens, trendy college students, baggy-white-T guys, aging punks and tipsy empty nesters alike were dancing and fist-pumping to electro-pop songs.

“This is shocking,” Wild Cub frontman Keegan DeWitt said. “We really didn’t think anyone had heard our music here before.”

To be honest, I was a little surprised, too. Fans sang along to the band’s super-catchy single “Thunder Clatter” and shouted out the obligatory “I love you, have my babies!”

Throughout the set, I felt like I was witnessing something special. Or that Wild Cub, which dropped its debut record Youth last week and then appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, is going to be very huge very soon.

But I could speak similarly about the opening act, Hands. The Los Angeles-based quartet skillfully bridged synthy pop with anthem rock for an alternative radio-friendly sound.

On stage, the men wore skinny pants and asymmetrical haircuts. The look and sound were both iconically “Los Angeles hipster band.” Sure enough, they are from Silver Lake, the city’s hipster epicenter.

Nonetheless, Hands quickly inspired one hopefully drunk gentleman, who took to jumping up and down, front and center, occasionally screaming with delight. He seemed to be having the time of his life. I was envious. And eventually, many joined him.