Louisiana-based band to perform at Gabe's


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Louisiana-based Dirtfoot sees its audience as its seventh band member, and the band incorporates the people into live performances.

In April 2000, a tornado forced a tree out of the earth and onto singer/songwriter Matt Hazelton's home. While out on a walk, banjoist J Bratlie saw the damage to the man's home and began a conversation. Once the pair discovered that they were both musicians, Dirtfoot was born.

The band has performed at numerous large music festivals across the nation, including Wakarusa, Summercamp, and Harvest Fest. At 9 p.m. Thursday, it will perform at Gabe's, 330 E. Washington St. Admission is $7.

Scott Kading, the owner of Gabe's, said he was initially attracted to the band because of its tagline, "The Only Front-Porch, Whiskey-Swillin', Foot-Stomping, Gypsy, Punk, Country, Grumble, Boogie band in the land."

The band played four nights at the Harvest Festival in Ozark, Ark., last weekend, which is headlined every year by the Yonder Mountain String Band.

"Festivals are always fun, of course, for the experience," Bratlie said. "But smaller venues are great because you get this intimate environment. It's not a huge stage where there's a bunch of ego worship. There is a lot of interaction with a crowd."

Audience interaction is a major part of the show, Bratlie said. At every show, the musicians pass out homemade bean cans, a simple percussion instrument made from tomato cans, pinto beans, and a little duct tape.

"We've always looked at the crowd as the seventh member of the band," Hazelton said. "It is part of what we do. There's a lot of singing along, even if the crowd hasn't ever heard the song, they pick it up really quickly."

Many of Dirtfoot's songs, he said, are call-and-response. But the members say their sound doesn't fall under a specific genre.

"Gypsy punk country grumble boogie is really the best description we've ever come up with, simply because the sound is so diverse," Bratlie said. "People ask us all the time, What bands do you sound like? Well, we don't. We truly have a unique sound."

Because the band's singer and songwriter, Hazelton, is from Texas, Bratlie said he brings a swing and kind of outlaw-country sound. The rest of the band is from Louisiana and adds the gypsy sound, the voodoo and jazz influences, and a Louisiana flavor.

Along with promising singing and homemade instruments, the band's performance ultimately provides an escape.

"You'll most likely dance your ass off, and you can expect to forget about your daily woes while we're on stage and live in the moment," Hazelton said. "There's something about our show that will clear your mind."

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