Live: Dick Dale at Respectable Street, June 13

Dick Dale
With Laramie Dean, the Gutter Queens
Respectable Street, West Palm Beach
Monday, June 13, 2011

Better than: Joey Buttafuoco's stupid curly mullet.

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. 

With a sonic footprint as large as Godzilla's, the man in question

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


At 11:30 p.m., the sorely needed aural intermezzo provided by DJs Sensitive Side and James Brown's Sweat dies down to allow for the raffle of a Dick Dale-signed surfboard benefiting the Surfers for Autism

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. 

Finally, Dick Dale

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

of experience. 

Critic's Notebook

Random observation: The totally surfed-out dudes and ladies known to

frequent FAU's Boca campus were strangely absent... sup with that, brah?

Random observation 2: This would be the first show I've been at in Palm Beach

County where legitimate mustaches outnumbered those of the ironic/hip


Overheard: "PLAY 'NIITROOOOOO'!!! PLAAAYYYYYY 'NIIIIIIITRRROOOOO'!!!!!!!!!!!!" - Drunk Guy. "Nitro" is now the surf-rock "Free Bird."

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