Redemption Songs: Downtown Boys at the Bunkhouse

Photo courtesy of Downtown Boys

Photo courtesy of Downtown Boys

“It’s amazing so many people in Las Vegas know who we are” said Downtown Boys guitarist Joey DeFrancesco, addressing the several dozen folks in the Bunkhouse audience. He wasn’t being sarcastic—meaning what they say is what the band is all about. The band stopped through between gigs at Coachella and fresh off their first SubPop release, “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)” and gave the club crowd the same passion and power they do for a massive festival audience.

Downtown Boys are proudly defying political, cultural and gender standards, and their sound is an edgy hybrid of noise guitars, rock saxophone and driving baselines that evokes the kind of ‘80s acts seen on the old late-night TV show, New Wave Theater. But Downtown Boys are also aggressively of the moment—if we need anything during this national nightmare, it’s songs that can make us dance with words that can make us think. Frontwoman Victoria Ruiz is an aggressive, charismatic dynamo—imagine if Janis Joplin and Cesar Chavez had a baby and let Joe Strummer raise it. If her between-song tirades occasionally struck an off-note (a town of over 100,000 hotel rooms is already familiar with bedbugs) the songs always picked up the slack and pulled tight, from the slow-burn of the V-8 powered drive of “Wave of History.” Even when the duct tape patching a hole in Ruiz’s pants came off, she didn’t stop; when DeFranceso broke a string mid-song, he threw on a new one even while playing the others. A chunk of the crowd was pulled on stage for a fierce finale of “Monstro,” the rest pulling close around the stage and the band like a tribe cluttering around the campfire. The blaze set by Downtown Boys may be metaphorical, rather than literal, but they are still a band full of fire.

★★★★✩

Vegas Seven

RunRebs