Derby with the Dorks!

By Wally Stewart

I've been a big fan of The Dorkestra since hearing them at a Louisville Homefront show about three years ago; I try to be at the Rudyard Kipling whenever the group makes its quarterly drive from Bloomington, Ind., for I know a good time awaits me.

On Derby night more than twenty slices of blues, folk, waltz, rock 'n' roll and other flavors were placed on the musical table, alongside violinist Karl Meyer's side-splitting monologues, and even late arrivals had lots of fun.

Stirred into the mix were several cuts from the group's live CD, 11593, including originals from Meyer and primary writer/lead vocalist Robert Shannon Meitus. Meitus writes with passion, whether it be the political satire of "President Quayle" or the heart-touching love shown for his 96-year-old grandmother in "I'll Only Write Waltzes for You." Both are favorites; I laugh with one and cry with the other.

A highlight of any Dorkestra show is Meyer's dry humor; it is impossible to tell what's going to happen, but he always manages to bring each adventure to a reasonable conclusion. Robert aided Karl's singing of "Bloomington Girl" by climbing up on a leftover stage setting to provide "choreography," and laughter could be heard floating in the air throughout the program.

Dorkestra strives to entertain but these guys can play; during "Mother Earth," Meyer's strings started to smolder, and the smoke was thick on the classic "Little Red Rooster." Jeff Farias growls out the blues vocals while playing an aluminum upright bass. His New York background, and guitarist Jon Nilsen's, shows on these tunes, and as Nilsen scorched the "Rooster" I remembered a night when local six-string wiz Tim Krekel dueled with him. At the end, encores were demanded and delivered; the last one was their usual closer, "Sixteen Tons," with Farias' deep bass voice belting the sound.

Earlier in the day drummer Dan Vonnegut had graduated from Indiana University, so congrats go to him. Congratulations also go to Meitus, who is rumored to be walking down another famous aisle in June.

To fully appreciate the Dorkestra experience, you have to be there; I intend to do so the next time their traveling party hits town.