Dust Never Sleeps: The Dustbowl Revival threw a party at Top of the Park


The Dustbowl Revival

Zach Lupetin fell in love with the Ann Arbor Summer Festival and its free, outdoor Top of the Park concerts during his time as a University of Michigan student. Wednesday evening, some 11 years after graduating, he returned as a performer, leading his LA-based acoustic band The Dustbowl Revival in a joyous, spirited set.

Recalling his U-M years, when he led an earlier local band called the The Midnight Special, he spoke of the community’s deep appreciation for live music. “People come together no matter what,” he said mid-show. “It’s an honor to play music here.”

The Dustbowl Revival made a name for itself more or less in the Americana genre, with some flavors of old-time jazz and western swing woven in. The band’s latest album expands its sound further, and Wednesday’s set started with a trio of songs -- the sexy “Call My Name,” the clever and danceable “Gonna Fix You,” and the intense “If You Could See Me Now -- that incorporated more elements of rock, soul, and funk.

Lupetin’s sparkplug stage presence and tight guitar playing are of course a big part of the band’s success. Just as important is co-lead singer (and ukulele/tambourine player) Liz Beebe, whose compelling voice especially shone on two other new songs, “Good Egg” and “Busted,” that describe very different relationships. “Good Egg” is a funny and charming ode to a perfect match: “He looks good with his shirt off / Even better with it on / And when I’m feeling down and out / He cures me with his song.” On the other hand, “Busted” is a powerful, fiery warning: “You’re busted and you don’t really know it / You said you’re sorry but you don’t really show it.”
The band truly hit its songwriting stride on the newer material. The wistful “Debtors’ Prison” featured some of their strongest lyrics, opening with “If I was a betting man / I wouldn’t bet on me.”

The main point of The Dustbowl Revival, however, is to have a good time, and the party vibe hit a peak with two favorites from their previous album, the New Orleans romp “Ain’t My Fault” and their signature rave-up “Lampshade On.” These gave the entire band -- mandolinist Daniel Mark, fiddler Connor Vance, trumpeter Matt Rubin, trombonist Ulf Bjorlin, drummer Joshlyn Heffernan, and bassist James Klopfleisch -- individual opportunities to shine, and each one of them is an absolute master of his instrument.

The band clearly had a great time with three covers of pop-rock favorites. Early on, they brought fresh life to Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America,” and they closed the main set with an extended jam on The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” An encore featured the band’s own mellow and sweet “Honey, I Love You,” followed by, of all things, The Knack’s “My Sharona.”

By that point, the dance floor in front of the stage was packed with smiling festivalgoers. Lupetin told the crowd to “dance like it’s 1979,” but he really didn’t have to ask.

Set List:
“Call My Name”
“Gonna Fix You”
“If You Could See Me Now”
“Good Egg”
“Breakfast in America”
“Debtors’ Prison”
“Ain’t My Fault”
“Lampshade On”
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
“Honey I Love You”
“My Sharona”

Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.

The Dustbowl Revival plays Thursday, June 28 at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion, and regularly plays at The Ark. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park free outdoor concerts and other attractions continue through Sunday, July 1 at Ingalls Mall off East Washington Street.