On a rainy night in West Palm Beach, several heavily modified vintage cars lined the sides of Clematis Street. Among them was an outstanding late-'50s Chevy Bel-Air station wagon and a rare 1949 Hudson, perfect scenery for a most nostalgic evening, courtesy of West Palm's Salvegerz Car Club. The lot of them have fantastically low stances, hunched over their tires as if posing on what will be one of their biggest nights out from the depths of the garage in recent memory. Dick Dale, the "King of Surf Guitar," performed on this night in their city. A living, breathing, steel-shredding, reverb-surfing, eardrum-crushing, real-deal founding father of rock 'n' roll guitar.
is considered by a great many to be the first strand of primordial
musical goo leading to the evolution of heavy metal. A pioneer in both
technique and the abuses of sheer volume we've all come to know and
love, Dick Dale is an absolute icon of the instrument and an immensely
important piece of the rock 'n' roll puzzle, a generally unsung hero
whose impact can't be overstated. He was a direct influence on Hendrix. If you think you're unfamiliar with his work, think again: That 40-foot wall of reverb-soaked guitar forever tied to Quentin Tarantino in
Pulp Fiction was Dale's hit song "Misirlou" and stands as a perfect place to
start if you're "just getting your feet wet" with Dick's work.
opened at 8 p.m. for the incredibly mixed crowd of
rockabilly nostalgia aficionados, punk rockers, and vintage humans
(older fans, for the PC crowd), and the bands did not begin until 9:30.
The Gutter Queens and Laramie Dean each handled opening duties. The
Gutter Queens play a more punk-rock, far less mature version of the
(mostly) instrumental surf rock pioneered by Dale himself. They had a
lot of energy and show potential. Laramie Dean, who was a former
employee of the Guitar Center in Hallandale Beach and the man who has
recently been Dick Dale's guitar tech/protégé played a tighter, slightly
more mature surf-rock set but with a guy playing trumpet just a little
too loud and a little out of key the entire time. Horn bits aside, his
set was enjoyable if a little (read: A LOT) redundant as an opener to
Dick Dale. Seriously, though, three full hours of tremolo-picked, dripping-wet
surf guitar is a little much, especially considering that the direct
support is dishing back licks he's nabbed from lessons with the
nonprofit group. Oddly, the guy chosen randomly to pick the
raffle ticket from the envelope was the owner of its other half and
won the surfboard to the genuine surprise of the MC and the confused
boos/cheers of the crowd.
took the stage. Wearing an elaborately adorned black cowboy shirt with
white trim and his signature ponytail, the man is in abnormally good
shape for a 74-year-old, something he attributes to clean living and
martial arts. Dale proceeded to adjust his microphone by ear
out loud with the sound guy for what felt like 20 minutes and only then
laid down a few absolutely crushing notes of the truth for an audience
of completely rapt (and by this point inebriated) surf-rock fans.
the authentic sound his opening acts had been trying so hard to
synthesize all night was front and center and completely undeniable.
Dick's son Jimmy handled drum duties and did an excellent job of adding a
slightly more modern feel to his father's guitar playing, slamming and
accenting his way through the set of classic covers and Dale's world-famous originals. Jimmy's heavy fills and commanding snare hits are a
perfect foil for Dick's animal noises, slides, and rhythmic tremolo
picked lines, and the bass player, known only as "Ron," kept right up
with the onslaught that the Grand Puba of 'Verb was dishing out.
The third song
played was the archetype of a beach-party dance number, and the
revitalized audience found itself bobbing and shimmying. A highlight was Dick's homage to Johnny Cash as well as his cover of "House of the Rising Sun." The set list is decided on stage, and Dick commands his
trio with hand movements and sonic queues and manages to somehow segue
from song to song with a medley like fluidity explained only by 50 years
frequent FAU's Boca campus were strangely absent... sup with that, brah?
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County where legitimate mustaches outnumbered those of the ironic/hip