Forty-thousand dollars in cash and prizes won on Wheel of Fortune by Mike Dahl, accordion and trumpet player for Ruby Darby, made the album “130 Pounds of Pep” possible.
Named after an early twentieth century expression for striking oil, Ruby Darby played at the University of Alaska Anchorage Campus Center Den on Sept. 21.
Ruby Darby by no means came to Alaska as strangers to the music scene, playing the April 2000 Alyeska Slush Cup and Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse.
“Alaska is our favorite place on earth,” said drummer Korum Bischoff. “The audience in Alaska is so much more respectful and appreciative.”
“Alaska spoils us,” added lead singer, songwriter and lead guitarist, Don Clifton.
Alexis Schultz, the only female member of Ruby Darby, opened the show with a humming, amplified viola solo in minor key. Already a classically trained musician, Schultz currently pursues a master’s in viola at Hartt Conservatory in Wash.
Hailing from Seattle, Wash., Ruby Darby is accustomed to playing local venues around the state from Bellingham to Evergreen State College, in Olympia.
The member’s claim their music is sort of a Johnny Cash meets James Brown drunk in Spain mix. It combines funk, country and Latin sounds into a great ball of energy, almost an indistinguishable genre.
“Everyone has different backgrounds which allows the music to be diverse,” Clifton said.
Ruby Darby’s songs sounded along the lines of Cake’s spoken word or Eve 6 sounding contemporary alternative. The sound combined carnival accordion rifts with orchestrated viola string accompaniment.
Bassist Jherek Bischoff and his brother Korum Bischoff add a lot of Latin American music in the rhythm section from their travels in Mexico, Schultz said.
The eccentric bunch gave UAA a fun-loving performance at First Stop Friday. Clifton’s storytelling style alongside harmonizing vocals from Dahl and Jherek Bischoff, told a stories about the 7th grade, liars and Clifton’s mother side of the family.
“The stories are wacky, but true,” Schultz said.
Dahl sporadically interacted with the audience making facial expression with Clifton’s lyrics and running through the crowd while blowing his horn and wearing an audience member’s hat.
Besides playing accordion, trumpet and backing up Clifton with vocals, Dahl teaches high school physics at Shorewood High in Shoreline Wash. After the crowd warmed up, Dahl sang a song where he sounded out chemical elements while drummer Korum Bischoff held a Periodic Table of Elements and Schultz acted as a teacher holding a pointer and following along. When the song finished the group donated the chart to the chemistry department, which had experienced a mysterious disappearance of a very similar chart.
After the first few songs, Dahl exclaimed, “Man you guys are nuts, like skiing into slush kind of nuts!”
“Play me something that will make me go nuts,” an audience member screamed.
Clifton asked, “…what trips your trigger?” He then “got away” and went into a cover of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” Other covers included War’s, “Low Rider” with a long improvised instrumental. Late in the show, Dahl led vocals on a rendition of Paul Simon’s, “Bodyguard,” demonstrating the bands versatility and adaptability to a variety of musical styles.
From the sound of Ruby Darby, students should mark their calendars and be aware of upcoming First Stop Friday acts.