Hard Rock Hotel & Casino hosted the newly renamed Two Step in the casino’s Vinyl Room Saturday night, a Dave Matthews tribute band previously known as Big Eyed Fish.
The six-piece band did an excellent job of rendering DMB’s intricate sound in a live setting, with two guitars (one acoustic and one electric), drums, bass, saxophone and violin. It kicked the night off with “Grey Street,” immediately getting the crowd grooving to the driving beat and moving melody. As with many of DMB’s tunes, this is not a particularly easy song to play, but Two Step set the tone nicely with my personal favorite.
Frontman Daniel Rau impressively ran the gamut of Matthews’ complex singing styles; the back and forth falsettos, soft and brooding tones, and the tour-de-force power vocals. He was clearly having a blast onstage, shuffling and sidestepping to the beat and strumming his acoustic guitar with gusto. Rau routinely stepped to one side of the stage or the other to engage band mates during jams and instrumental interludes.
Brian Chris Rogers served up a spot-on rendition of DMB drummer Carter Beauford’s signature, rimshot-heavy style, providing the backbeat for the up-tempo show. Rogers also brought quite a bit of energy to the show, smiling nonstop with dreadlocks swinging as he pounded away at his kit.
Two Step did the mellower Matthews tunes justice as well, keeping the crowd swaying and singing along during lower-tempo songs like “Everyday,” then kicking things back up quickly with bouncier songs like “So Much To Say” or “Too Much.”
The instrumental section also did a fine job, with Ryan Hernandez providing the soaring fiddle tones so central to DMB, and singing backup occasionally as well. Kazutoshi Haji had a nice touch on the electric guitar, a lovely jazz-style semi-hollow body arch top. I did not catch the saxophonist’s name, but he also had a great feel, partnering with Hernandez to create that distinct DMB sound of sweeping sax and violin lines emerging out of the beat-heavy, acoustic base.
While the crowd started off on the smaller side, it grew and grew as the show went on, and wound up with a nice showing. Hard Rock included a free drink with admission, which was appreciated by many in the crowd. While fairly modest in size, the Vinyl Room is a solid and intimate venue, perfect for this show. A scattering of tables and the row of chairs against either wall provide a simple convenience, while the dark and industrial feel of the room and the stage makes for an appreciably understated feel.
All in all it was a great set, kicking back to the wide variety of sounds that comprise DMB’s repertoire. The funky, jazzy, world music-tinged tunes were recreated precisely, with enjoyable enthusiasm and energy, and the crowd of happy concertgoers clearly appreciated Two Step’s work. Founded just a year ago in Jan. 2015, this Sacramento band has a great thing going, and we’ll look forward to seeing where they take it.