The members of Rusty Maples could have been sulky as they took the stage. Afterall, it was to be their last show with drummer Max Plenke, an integral part of the sound that has earned them widespread recognition, who recently accepted a job opportunity in New York.
However, the other members laughed and carried on as they would at any other show. Throughout the night they even jokingly referred to the gig as “Max’s funeral.” Their attitude toward unfortunate situations like this one is what has allowed them to persevere through all of the obstacles that come with being in a band.
Since forming in 2011, Las Vegas rock group Rusty Maples has toured tenaciously, released three EPs, and had its music played on hit TV shows like “Nashville and “Shameless.” April 25 saw it taking the stage for a four-set show at Peppermill’s Terrace Lounge for the third consecutive evening. While performing roughly 12 hours over three nights is absolutely grueling, Rusty Maples’ tireless work ethic has been a huge key to its success in addition, of course, to its music. At the very root of what RM does is lead singer Blair Dewane’s acoustic-based, conversational songwriting that is bolstered by the danceably melodic and hard-hitting rhythm section of guitarist Ian Dewane, bassist Mike “Big Wheel” Weller and drummer Plenke. The sound, while immediately comparable to indie folk groups like Mumford & Sons, contains a weight and depth to it not unlike Arcade Fire.
Rusty Maples’ sets were energetic and powerful as it turned the Terrace Lounge’s unsuspecting patrons into newfound fans of the Las Vegas four-piece. Highlights included original favorites like “Pockets,” “Better in Blue” and “Runner” as well as surprise covers like Chris Isaak’s 1989 hit “Wicked Game.”
Blair Dewane’s powerful falsetto rose above the band which drove each song powerfully and with an exactness that only comes with time … and a lot of it. Plenke and Weller’s use of dynamics are what allow the Dewane brothers to create such powerful moments within the songs. Blair Dewane’s ability to create a catchy melody would be just that without the backdrop of this rhythm section to reinforce and build each chorus to its full potential. Weller’s experience as a singer-songwriter himself is instrumental in crafting bass lines that serve the song and provide and strong foundation for each tune’s development.
Ian Dewane is the band’s secret weapon. He plays with a sense of purpose and direction, abandoning flashy chops in favor of motifs and themes that invigorate each song. He is mercilessly melodic and builds on the musical ideas that his brother sings.
Although Rusty Maples is losing a drummer, it is not losing ambition. While it goes back to Vegas and search for Plenke’s replacement, the group also will be writing new material and playing acoustic shows. I was able to catch up with Blair between sets and he made it clear that although the players hit a bit of a speed bump they are working on new music and plan to record their first full length album at the legendary Sonic Ranch studios in El Paso, Texas. The future looks bright for Rusty Maples and, luckily for music lovers everywhere, it shows no signs of slowing down.