Dex Romweber is about as genuine of a guy as you can hope to meet. He gets excited sharing things with you, be it an upcoming personal event or telling you about a vivid dream he had about a black bird coming to him, (I didn’t bring it up at the time, but Crow, his ex-band mate in the Flat Duo Jets came to mind when Dex was trying to decipher what the black bird in his dream meant). While I normally keep my distance with the bands I follow (I never know what to say), Dex was keen for conversation, so the following is a recap of my night with the Romweber siblings on their Los Angeles stop of their US tour in support of their new album, Is That You In The Blue?
There was a group of friends who had come over from Lancaster to see Dex and his sister Sara play The Whisky a go-go. They had also driven hours the day before to catch the Dex Romweber Duo play in San Diego. Two years before that, they had caught Dex and Sara on their last West Coast tour. “Not only did he remember my face, but he remembered my name!”, Drew told me, one of the four Dex Romweber Duo (DRD) fans from Lancaster. It’s true, Dex’s memory is uncanny. He remembered my name throughout the night after I first introduced myself early on. There are people I talk to daily who are still under the impression that my name is “hey!”, so to be called by my given name by an underground legend who never got the recognition he deserved, but is named as a musical influence by many in the mainstream, well, to say the least, I was quite chuffed.
I asked Dex, who was standing outside the Whisky smoking and talking to the Lancaster fans about an unreleased song of his I came across online called ‘Peruvian Love Goddess‘. It’s a really cool, retro-1960s soundtrack-sounding tune that deserves to be pressed onto wax. Being Peruvian, I’ve jokingly referred to it as my theme song. When I discovered it, I thought it would be on his new record Is That You In The Blue?, but when I received the LP from Bloodshot Records, it was missing from the track list.
“Say Dex, do you think that song you did ‘Peruvian Love Goddess’ is going to be out anytime soon?” I asked.
“Oh man! Where did you hear that song? You must have found it online somewhere!” Dex said leaning up against the concrete wall of The Whisky a go-go.
“Someone posted a link on a blog, I heard it on Grooveshark”, I’m not entirely sure what a Grooveshark is, so I wasn’t sure Dex would know either.
“I recorded it at a friend’s house, I never released it”, he went on. I told him about me being Peruvian, so while the song is ace, I especially liked it even more given its title, “well, let me tell you Piera, it’s actually written about a Peruvian prostitute”.
“All the more reason to be proud of it, Dex”, I told him.
I also asked about his show the next night in Los Angeles. I had erroneously posted here on The Los Angeles Beat about DRD playing The Redwood Bar. “We’re playing in San Francisco tomorrow. I don’t know how my name got added to that bill, but I’d appreciated it if you got the word out about that”. There’s something about the way Dexter Romweber speaks that I really like, it’s so vintage sounding with a slight Southern twinge. I notified everyone through the Facebook Invite early the next day; done and done, Dex.
He talked about his signature guitar, his Silvertone 1448. There’s an excellent interview about it in Silvertone World to check out. “Number 13” is his most recent one, a reference to the number of Silvertone 1448’s he’s on. As Dex mentions in the Silvertone interview, some of them have broken while others have been stolen over the years. At the Whisky show, he was playing a Danelectro Reissue. There was an accident Number 13 had been involved in recently– if I remember correctly, Dex threw something, missed, hit Number 13 and it fell over and broke. Drew from Lancaster had brought his own pristine-condition Silvertone 1448 for Dex to play. “I’ll use it as my back up guitar!”, Dex was so enthusiastic when he grabbed it from Drew for tuning as he was getting his gear setup on stage.
Dex Romweber is so cool and friendly. He’s delightfully unaware of his cult status in the music world. He even admitted he doesn’t understand why people like his music and that he didn’t even know of Jack White prior to working with him on a single he put out via Jack’s Third Man Records’ Blue Series. I offered to buy Dex a pint and he confessed he had recently given up drinking and cocaine. He looked fit and healthy, so giving up those vices seem to have done him real good, “I’ve only got cigarettes left”, speaking of the last thing he’s got to kick.
I told Dex I was one of the lucky ones to win his sister’s drumstick in the Bloodshot raffle. Those who pre-ordered Is That You In The Blue? were put into a raffle to win Sara’s signed drumstick; I was one of the two winners. Dex told me I should definitely go tell Sara because she would be so excited to meet me.
Sara Romweber on the other hand is more animated than her laidback brother Dex, but equally as friendly and conversational. I sheepishly went up to her prior to them going
onstage to tell her about the drumstick I had won,
“It’s slightly cracked, which makes me love it even more”, I told her.
“I love it when I break my sticks! You got a real good one!” she said.
Speaking on my experience with him and his sister Sara, there isn’t the slightest bit of elitist air about them, something of which I’m quick to detect on those rare instances when I approach even the most local of bands I admire. “I’m going to go talk to my friends for a minute”, I heard Dex say pointing to the Lancaster group and me after a slightly forceful and fully-drunk groupie accosted him after the show. It was a sweet and endearing thing to overhear.
Dex Romweber Duo took the stage at around 10:30pm. They played in between bands whom I’m not familiar with, so I didn’t give them the respect I’m sure they deserved and I opted to hang around with my new Lancaster friends instead. In between conversing with Dex and Sara, the Lancaster group and I hung out, speaking on things ranging from rock-n-roll to the declining state of economics, a shared view of pessimism between 20-something-year-old educated Americans.
The Whisky was meekly filled, but it didn’t matter as Dex and Sara gave it their energetic all. Going through old Flat Duo Jets favourites like Mexicali Baby, and old live repertoire that has found its way onto Is That You In The Blue? like ‘Homicide’, ‘Jungle Drums’, and the title track, they played for a solid 45 minutes only because that’s all the time they were allotted. Something tells me the Dex Romweber Duo could have played the whole night had they not been given any restrictions.
Immediately after their set, I went upstairs to join the crowd of fans who wanted to buy a record or two. The Dex Romweber Duo camp had left their box of merchandise at a far table, unattended for the entire night. Dollar bills were piling up already. People must have grabbed what they wanted after a good wait and left their money there. The price sheet rested on the table: $15 for any of the records, $5 for the
Third Man Records single. We must have waited for about 10 minutes when I spotted Sara across the room and ran up to her.
“There’s a crowd forming around your merch, do you want me to handle it?”, Sara was having a conversation with someone and was stoked when I made my suggestion. She grabbed her tour manager who was packing up equipment and told him I was going to sell stuff. To my surprise, the manager handed me a red pencil box filled with dollar bills and said ‘thanks!’—it’s evident these people are not from Los Angeles. I’ve never been handed anything of value without being interrogated… how refreshing this was.
So off I went, back to the booth like I was part of the crew. I must have sold a good $50 to $100 worth of stuff before their tour manager came to take over the table. Lots of Is That You In The Blue?, the Third Man Records 7” singles which sold out quickly, and their Live at Third Man Records LP were bought up. I picked up the latter and a semi-out of print Flat Duo Jets’ Red Tango.
As the night wrapped up, I continued talking to Sara. She gave me her email and told me to keep in touch. “People are mean on Facebook! I won’t join it until people become nicer!” she told me as to why she prefers emailing. So many pleasantly sweaty hugs were given to me that night between her and Dex, I’ve lost count. I’m still reeling in the fun I had that night, reliving it through the notes I jotted down upon returning home from the gig at dawn. Til the next LA stop, Dex and Sara, have a fantastic rest of the tour, we can’t wait to have you back.