Dexter Romweber Rocks the Cave
It seemed as if Chapel Hill’s Dexter Romweber was set to at least rock, if not rule, the world. Barely out of his teens, in the mid 1980’s he was featured on MTV’s “Cutting Edge” and “120 Minutes”. He appeared in the cult film “Athens, Ga: Inside Out” with REM and The B-52’s and then in 1990 his band Flat Duo Jets played “Late Night with David Letterman”. Could the bigtime be far behind? While mainstream fame proved elusive for the often enigmatic Romweber, over the years Jack White, Neko Case, Cat Power and Exene Cervenka have all sung his praises. It is twenty-five years later and Dexter’s still playing the same Sear’s Silvertone guitar because “other guitars are just way too clean”. Like a man possessed Dexter turns his guitar into a one-man-band simultaneously squeezing out lead and rhythm while scowling, growling, howling and sometimes crooning at the moon.
Dexter’s recent solo set at The Cave, a down-the-dark-alley-easy-to -miss small underground bar in cover Benny Joy’s “Wild Wild Lover”, play an original Chopin inspired piano piece on the house piano, rock a career and genre spanning selection of high energy tracks (from Flat Duo Jets to his solo discs to his Dex Romweber Duo), before moving back to the piano and closing the show with what he described as a “happy song”: Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” from the 1936 film Modern Times.
“Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking”
Yeah, that’s not exactly what most people consider a happy song. But Dexter’s not most people and that’s just Dexter’s universe and yes, it did put a smile on my face to briefly step into it. Dexter just might be the greatest living archivist of roots music performing today. And if you don’t believe me check out the scene in It Might Get Loud where Jack White spins a 45 on his turntable of Dexter rockin’ his version of the traditional English folk song “Frog Went A Courtin” while Jimmy Page and The Edge sit and listen.
Catch him if you can.