Its press release describes its sound as “New Orleans Big Brass Circus Rock,” but saxophonist Matt Thomas says his band Dirty Bourbon River Show is, more simply, a theatrical party. "We want to pay tribute to New Orleans while doing something artistically satisfying," Thomas tells New Times as he shows some out-of-town friends around the French Quarter, "but we also want to entertain large groups of people."
Started in New Orleans in 2009 by singer Noah Adams and drummer Dane Schindler as an experiment while they had access to a recording studio at Loyola, Dirty Bourbon River Show became a full-fledged touring band in 2011.
With one foot in the wild hedonism of punk rock and another in the Old World instruments of accordions and horns, the band has a raucous sound reminiscent of Gogol Bordello. "Noah as our primary songwriter has Tom Waits as a big influence," Thomas adds. "All of the brass players, though, listen to Rebirth Brass Band and Dirty Dozen Brass Band. All five of us contribute our influences, so no two songs are ever the same."
The band recently finished its tenth album, due to be released in 2017. Its two most recent records put emphasis on different instruments. 2014's Important Things Humans Should Know emphasized brass, while 2013's Accordion Anthology stayed true to its title. "The accordion isn't always in our songs. So we revamped some songs to fit it on every song of the album." The live show, though, is where Thomas says the best of the quintet comes out. "The energy when everyone is locked in together, especially when we can interact with the crowd, that's where it's at."
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Local curiosity seekers will have a chance to catch the spectacle as Dirty Bourbon River Show makes its annual sojourn to South Florida at Arts Garage on November 5. "We've played in the cold of Michigan and Colorado, but we're all Southern boys. Every November or December we make a habit of playing South Florida, where we can wear flip-flops and T-shirts while everyone else is dealing with snow and ice."
On one of the Florida shows at Key West's the Green Parrot, the band broke a personal endurance record of three 90-minute sets in one night. Generally, though, audiences have to settle for "just" two 90-minute sets wherein the self-described "modern-day vagabonds" meld their training in blues, brass, jazz, rock, and debauchery.