Rock the Lot

Friday March 13 - 9:30 PM – 11:00 PM



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Perhaps that has a little something to do with the band’s hometown. El Paso, home of the “dirty river” known as the Rio Grande, is a place of schemers and strivers—not all of them on the right side of the law. Perhaps the quintessential American border town, the place locals call “El Chuco” is practically one city with its Mexican twin, Ciudad Juárez. Viewed from the air, only the path of the river delineates where one ends and the other begins. It was against this backdrop that Nino Cooper, Marco Gutierrez and Travis Stearns came of age, playing music in various bands, dreaming of recording at Sonic Ranch—the mammoth residential studio just outside town—and hearing wild stories of drug wars and lawlessness from just a few miles away. Fast forward a decade or so and Cooper had returned to El Paso from Southern California, where he’d abandoned a corporate career. Armed with an acoustic guitar and armload of originals and covers, he began playing anywhere that would have him, including restaurants and hotel lobbies. Stearns quickly jumped aboard to provide percussion, but venues weren’t crazy about a loud drum kit. So Stearns dropped the kit and picked up the cajón, a simple, box-like instrument common south of the border. Marco Gutierrez, veteran of a number of local bands, soon rounded out the trio, and gigs in hotels and restaurants soon became bookings in El Paso’s handful of live-music clubs, which after awhile led to trips out of town. Young, hungry and—literally—driven, the trio nonetheless buckled up for long van rides and soon began venturing to Austin, San Antonio, Tulsa and points beyond. Meanwhile a hard-driving roots-acoustic sound—which at the time, wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist with the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons—began getting battle tested over an endless string of shows and hundreds of broken cajón heads. Along the way

The Dirty River Boys notched a number of significant milestones, opening for legend Willie Nelson several times, and selling out the famed Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Tex. Having left the El Paso restaurants far behind, the band continued to grow, adding stand-up bassist Colton James and functioning just a bit more like a conventional rock band, though one without the usual dynamic. Indeed, The Dirty River Boys have an incredible number of strengths. All four members have a hand in the songwriting, and all four sing as well, while members often switch off instruments during shows. This isn’t just a vehicle for a songwriting frontman, with an interchangeable crew of instrumentalists bringing those ideas to life. And now, with its best record in hand, the band plans to venture much further afield from El Paso, and stay on the road. After all, with border checkpoints on every road out of town, leaving town can be a hassle.