Bustle in Your Hedgerow, Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO-3/1
Bustle in my hedgerow indeed. The powerful, loud, and raucous band made up of Marco Benevento on keys, Scott Metzger on guitar, Dave Dreiwitz on bass, and Joe Russo on drums is a side project rocking all instrumental covers of Led Zeppelin. Although they have played less than twenty shows within the past two years, the band came out with a significant number of new covers for this tour that reached deep into the historic Zeppelin archives.
It’s always great when the band you are seeing looks like they are engaged in the music and the audience but these guys appeared to be having as good of a time as anyone in the venue. And therein lies the beauty of this project: talented musicians who are Zeppelin freaks laying it down hard for Zeppelin appreciators. Most of us never got to see the mighty Zep live; however, everyone has had the heavy riffs seared into their minds since high school. Bustle captured the energy and essence of classic songs but not at the expense of the intricacies or subtleties often found in the sonic layers of the Led Zeppelin catalog. For true Zeppelin fans, the way Bustle deftly handles the familiar music with reverence will make you involuntarily nod your head in approval. I can assure you that Bustle is not a tribute band striving for perfect replication; it is all instrumental with vocalizing done with a Gibson, Hammond, and distorted Wurlitzer. On a Thursday night in Denver, the crowd was witness to a careful blend of respect for rock legacy and a modern, loose approach to music that simply cannot be duplicated.
Right out of the gate, Metzger jolted the audience to attention with the opening riff of “The Song Remains the Same.” It became readily apparent that all four members of the band were aiming to keep things buoyant and carry momentum throughout the evening. Bustle eased into “What Is and What Should Never Be” next and offered a glimpse of the clever duality found in Page and Plant’s songwriting, alternating between slow, gentle verses while setting up for a powerful punches in the chorus. The rhythm section shook the house during “Trampled Under Foot” and “In the Evening,” punctuating all of the right changes and highpoints. Even without orchestral backing, “Kashmir” lived up to its epic reputation with Benevento providing several coats of auditory colors. “Over the Hills and Far Away” provided an opportunity for the guitar and keys to stretch out the bridge section during an extended jam that traveled over the hills and far away from the framework of the original before meandering back on course. The well-known opening of “Moby Dick” launched both the band and the crowd into the rousing set closer, which saw Russo doing his best Bonzo impression that included foregoing drum sticks in favor of bare hands to pound the drum kit into submission.
The second set began with a dynamic take on “Custard Pie,” a song that Metzger and Russo handled with compelling enthusiasm. As I glanced around the venue, everyone was rocking out in unison as if they were prompted to do so for a music video. After a few more well-known songs, “The Wanton Song” dove back into the depths of Zep’s vintage repertoire. The heavy guitar and bass lines coupled with complex drum fills reminded us of why Led Zeppelin’s contribution to music was so far-reaching and influential. Bustle was quite skillful in their interpretation of this seldom heard yet authentic rock song. When “For Your Life” had wrapped up, Marco kicked off “The Ocean” with the “We’ve done four already but now we’re steady” quote from album version, much to the delight of the now sweaty audience. The lyric portions were handled by the Wurlitzer but we all ran through the words in our heads. I, personally, did not miss a singer in this band since Benevento and Metzger were manipulating the songs so well with instrumentation. One of the highlights of the night was an amazing take on “Good Times Bad Times,” an often covered yet rarely nailed tune. Bustle stuck the landing here and did not relent until after the final chords of a robust “Immigrant Song”.
You can see from the setlist that the exhausted audience was presented with an encore of unparalleled intensity. But when a band like this has consistently delivered song after song, you have little concern for time or fatigue. The anthem “Ramble On” paved the way for a continuous ride between “Communication Breakdown” and “Bring It on Home” with a few other songs woven in for good measure. As the house lights finally came on, the crowd rewarded the band with sincere and fervent applause.
It goes without saying that the members of Bustle are professional musicians that take their work seriously. All of them played with tenacity, kept tightly to the tunes when called for, yet allowed space for each other to etch their initials on the famous body of compositions. I have to take time to recognize Joe Russo’s remarkable performance behind the kit. Having seen his inspiring percussive abilities in a variety of settings (The Duo, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress), my complete admiration and faith in him was only increased during the Colorado Bustle shows. I say faith because if you are going to take on Zeppelin covers your drummer needs to be on top of it. Russo was all over it, folks. He flowed through every relevant fill with perfect timing and drove the band to thrilling heights. If you’re a Bonham fan, you understand the need for his signature bass drum triplets. Well, Russo had those covered too and wasn’t afraid to showcase some of his own trademark moves.
Both in Denver and in Boulder, Bustle nearly filled each venue and played for more than two hours. They didn’t stick to the songs you hear on the radio, busting out tunes that are rarely covered like “Out on the Tiles”, “The Wanton Song”, and “The Crunge.” I sincerely hope that this project continues to be revisited because it is one hell of a good time. Thanks to Bustle in Your Hedgerow for tipping their hat so diligently to one of the cornerstones of the music we enjoy today.