The Dirty Pennies Bring Blues Back to The California Brew Haus

The Dirty Pennies are not your granddaddy’s blues band. Their hometown of Rochester has been a hotbed of blues tradition for the past century, brought up from the Mississippi delta by legends like Son House and Joe Beard. The Pennies made it clear with their debut album Kick Out The Rocks that they’re here to shake off the cobwebs and revitalize the genre. The trio made a long-awaited return to The California Brew House on Friday October 20, having spent some time this year on the road promoting the album and playing a couple festivals.

The lineup for the evening included music from Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company (experimental indie) and House Majority (garage rock), with The Dirty Pennies headlining the show. The Pennies received a warm welcome back to the Brew Haus, a local watering hole serving Rochester for nearly 50 years. The room was filled with familiar faces: fans of the bands and the regulars at the venue. 

The Dirty Pennies’ set started with the grungy fugitive song “When I Hit The Road” off Kick Out The Rocks. Lead singer and guitarist Ryan Klem pulled off some warbling vocals in this song about living on the run. They alternated between familiar and new material. While each tune has its own distinctive flavor, they’re tied together by the common thread of deep bluesy riffs from bassist Joe Mungo and beats that pack a punch from drummer Lucas Howe. The show built up to the lively boogie-woogie title track “Kick Out The Rocks,” with the audience members singing and dancing along.

The mood in the room changed when Klem brought out his harmonica for the final number of their set, a soul-baring ballad called “Man on a Wire.” Howe and Mungo seemed to be in a zen-like state as they played, their typical energetic demeanor subdued in reverence. Inspired by the singer/songwriter folk rock tradition, the heartfelt lamenting sends chills to the bone. 

The crowd clamored for an encore, and the band picked things back up with “The Drinking Song,” a fan favorite and a fitting song for the bar venue where we were gathered. The rowdy tune inspired some moshing in the audience. They finished the night with “Sweet Talkin’.” Kory from House Majority jumped on stage to do vocals on this one, members of the crowd joining in on the chorus, “You’re always sweet talkin’, you sweet red wine. You’re out all day, you’re out all night.” 

Out all night we were, with the crowd dissipating and bands loading out in the wee hours. The Dirty Pennies headline another show in Rochester at The Bug Jar on Saturday, November 11. Follow on them on Facebook for updates and events. Kick Out The Rocks can be found on iTunesBandcamp, and Spotify. For more about The Dirty Pennies, read their interview with NYS Music

Setlist: Intro, When I Hit The Road, Surf, Water So Cold, Oh No, Blood of Me, Online, Kick Out The Rocks, Man On A Wire. Encore: The Drinking Song, Sweet Talkin’.