Bloodshot Records presented two feisty throwback groups at Birdy's Thursday night. These bands have street cred: It's cool to know who the Dex Romweber Duo and the Detroit Cobras are, and even cooler if you can sing along with their rough rock 'n' roll sound. Birdy's was filled with a mixture of maturing punk rockers, hip 20-somethings and ageless music nerds.
The Dex Romweber Duo opened with their noisy brand of classic Southern-influenced rock played out of a single guitar and a well-equipped drum kit. The guitarist, who lends his name to the group's title, pulled out some frenzied surf crunch, mixed it up with country-western ballads and threw in quite a bit of blues syncopation. His pebbly strums never lost their power, even during the most vocally challenging sections, when his smooth tenor would spontaneously break into a growl. Drummer Sara Romweber kept crashy time, varying sticks with brushes, playing bongos to create a sultry salsa beat.
The Detroit Cobras have seen tumultuous years and countless lineups, with the two main members, Rachel Nagy and Maribel Ramirez, as mainstays. Lead singer Nagy's voice is soulful, but with the very necessary edge that can only come from years of slugging back brews and singing in smoky bars. Rhythm guitarist Ramirez's quirky smile and kicky strums helped to keep the old-fashioned rock and roll danceable with the help of a tightly-wound snare and punchy, upstanding hi-hat hits. Lead guitarist Joey Mazzola picked out cocky riffs and some vibrating surf-influenced solos in front of a smoky, rumbling bass guitar played by a woman smaller than the instrument itself.
The band blends well together for ballsy renditions of little-known classic '50s and '60s jams, but there's no doubt that Nagy is the star. This tall, beautiful blonde - who has the smirky look of those bad girls kissing boys in the auditorium and smoking in the bathroom - is in her own world on stage, tapping a high-heeled boot in time with her unmistakable croon and interacting with the crowd minimally. This standoffish manner did nothing but further excite the crowd. Grizzled gray-hairs yelled "Rachel" in between songs and summer-dress bedecked young women shook their hips and hopped to these raw, edgy rock obscurities.