The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Rush pioneered the power trio format in the 1960s. But rock fans’ love for bluesy virtuoso wailing away on nothing but guitar, bass and drums peaked sometime around the fifth Grand Funk Railroad album.
Memphis’s The Dirty Streets, a power trio that plays downtown Las Vegas on Friday, is well aware of this.
“What we’re doing right now, it’s definitely not the cool thing to do,” singer-guitarist Justin Toland says. “But it’s really the only music we know how to play.”
In a world where new “electro-” sub-genres multiply like rabbits, The Dirty Streets are firmly rooted in the sounds that filled AM radio airwaves circa 1972.
Toland, bassist Thomas Storz and drummer Andrew Denham play soulful blues and boogie-rock rave ups, recalling Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and Deep Purple.
Their sound has been out of fashion for about four decades, but the band hasn’t changed the formula significantly over three studio albums.
Their latest, July’s Blades of Grass, is their tightest collection to date, from the crunching opener “Stay Thirsty” to “I Believe I Found Myself,” an obscure Sir Stanley cover that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sly Stone album.
In making music with a such a purposefully nostalgic sound, they look to ‘60s groups like folk/psych masters Love and boogie powerhouse Cactus for inspiration. Toland also cites punk progenitors the MC5 as a chief influence.
“They were really playing blues and classic rock and roll, but they took it in ways that no one had really done,” he says.
Leaning so heavily on the past means occasionally being labeled a retro act. But a smoking live show and original material helps differentiate The Dirty Streets from a tired tribute band.
“It’s hard to market this kind of music,” Toland says. “We have to play live and convince people that way.”
Despite constant touring and promotion, the band has yet to hit it big financially and all three members have struggled to keep day jobs in Memphis.
“Since 21, I’ve had 10 jobs because I’ve always left to go on tour and they wouldn’t allow me to come back,” says Toland, now 29. “We’ve kind of had to arrange our lives not to have any responsibilities.”
THE DIRTY STREETS will play the Gold Spike, 217 N. Las Vegas Blvd., 11 p.m., Nov. 1.