It’s Saturday night at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood and in the last three minutes all of the standing room has been sucked up. I don’t know what I’m in for, but obviously many others do, and they want more of it.
The stage is crowded; nearly ten musicians; some are tuning, others stretching, and yet some are chatting. Among them all is Common Rotation with guest Dan Bern and guests The Dustbowl Cavaliers. Their instruments are as diverse as the sounds we’re about to hear.
Common Rotation is three guys who look to be ranging their third decade, but might be a little younger. They don’t start like a blast, nor even a fountain or flow. They’re not that kind of band. Wall of sound, no-no. And really the sooner you understand that they’re most likely different from everything else you’ve heard, the better.
They are to music what the Daily Show is to news. A subversive tongue-lashing, with smarts and a delicious after-taste that leaves you giggling all the way home. If NPR’s Ira Glass had a band, it would be this. Or rather, Ira Glass wishes he was in this band.
The beat begins, a Johnny Cash-styled 3-step rhythm that beds a talkative narrative. Their folksy, twangy feel is immediately evident. But their lyrics are the firecrackers. Most verses play as slick, rhyming inside jokes. Inspired possibly by Cole Porter’s mischievous mind. For those of you who just gave a knowing nod, you need to be at their next show.
Vocalist Adam Busch leads us through song after song. Never too straight of a moment, but seldom too canted. He gives the feel of an Apple Genius who has escaped for the night. Sometimes with a harmonica, sometimes a saxophone; often an evil genius smirk.
Punch-punch-punch! Jordan Katz’s trumpet adds electricity to the air. For what Busch’s words are, Katz’s flair brings a flapper feel and cranks it to an eleven. Eric Kufs adds in supplementary string and well-timed vocals. It takes great teamwork to add a sarcastic tone to a chorus, but these boys bring attitude to each part.
Dan Bern is a tall fella with a Bob Dylan soulful mood behind his work. His experience shows in his presence. He comes across as just a guy who has some songs and he’d like to share ’em and hopes you like ’em. Been here long enough to be a local and his words hold that true. Waxing poetically about the City of Angels and the classy styles this town often posesses.
The Dustbowl Cavaliers round up the evening with eclectic delight. Joining strings, harmonica, saxophone and trumpet are an accordion and piano. Rev. Matthew Young (Upright Bass, Vocals), Ryan Raddatz (Mandolin, Harmonica, Vocals), Mark McConville (Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals), John Rosen (Banjo, Vocals) , Chris Kirshbaum (Snare, Percussion), Jess Olema (Fiddle), Cory Rouse (Guitar, Fiddle, Vocals).