Chronicles of Dirt Halo: The Muppet, The Monster, and The Tube of Honey Toothpaste
Vocals and Guitar: Bobby Santen
Drums: R.J. Hamman
Bass: Justin Callaway
New Guitar Player: Jonathan Gomez
With a few live shows under their studded belts, Dirt Halo is a fairly new band to join the Vegas rock family, forming just about two years ago. Though beyond their years mentally, the members of Dirt Halo are young in age and more young at heart (specifically *cough cough Justin* Sorry buddy, I couldn’t resist!). Bobby Santen, lead vocals and guitar, sat down with me to answer a few questions before their show at Count’s Vamp’d on Thursday, March 14th. Being such a new band in town, I was curious on how Bobby would describe their overall sound. He had trouble nailing down a specific example for me, other than “a lot of heavy vocals” but listed several influencers including Pantera, Static X and Seether. Personally, Seether is about as exciting as expired vanilla pudding, so he got a bit of an “arched eyebrow” reaction from me on that one – but to each their own!
Like most singers and songwriters, Santen writes his lyrics from personal experiences or experiences he’s seen other people go through. One of Bobby’s favorite songs is called “Lifeline” which is one of their most recently written songs and their show opener. They’ve been working on creating more melodic sounding songs with tons of versatility and catchy chorus lines. With touring being the ultimate goal, Bobby looks forward to writing songs that appeal to all tastes … “a little something for everyone.”
Since touring is what the band seems to look forward to doing the most, I asked Bobby give me his perfect lineup. I could see the wheels turning in Bobby’s brain as he dreamed up his ideal scenario:
- Shinedown – Because of Brent Smith’s legendary voice
- Alter Bridge – Because they put on one of the best live shows Bobby has ever seen
- Sevendust – Because they’re awesome (despite what drummer, R.J., thinks)
- Seether – Because that “would be cool too”. Sorry dude, I’ll be in line getting nachos during that set
Finally, I asked Bobby what he hopes for most from Thursday’s show at Vamp’d. He said he’s really excited to hear Abusement Park play for the first time and would love to see the local support flood through the doors. Santen also mentioned that they have a little surprise during their opening song – considering Bobby played around with the idea of wearing a kilt during their set, I was a bit nervous on what that “little surprise” might be! Overall, Bobby said his favorite thing about playing live shows is getting the crowd hyped up and he gets to “yell at everybody”. Santen’s famous last words were, “I hope I don’t’ fuck up. Now watch … imma fuck up.”
Once I arrived to Vamp’d, I was a little disappointed to see that the parking lot wasn’t as packed as it normally is. Granted, it was a “school night”, but come on people – you can’t say you want your friends’ bands to succeed but then never show up! Regardless, it was quality over quantity as close friends, spouses, and co-workers started to trickle in.
I was rollin’ solo for the night so as soon as I bought my first drink, a Corona, I ventured off to find the Dirt Halo boys. I found them on the patio laughing and making jokes about each other. All three dudes are solid, funny guys so I quickly felt comfortable joining in with the banter. Soon realizing that I’m old, tired, and crotchety, I returned back to inside to order an Irish Coffee in hopes that it would both warm me and wake me. About halfway through my 2nd Irish Coffee (extra shot of Jameson), the band started up and down the hatch my drink went. Can’t headbang too well with a hot beverage in my hands! Well at least, I was hoping Dirt Halo would be good enough to headbang to. I may be a woman, I am not a fan of faking it. Boom.
Bobby’s tease about his “little surprise” during their opening song became apparent as soon as the curtains opened. No, it wasn’t a one-eyed crotch leprechaun peeking out from a kilt like I was originally worried about! Dirt Halo had actually brought out a separate guitar player, Jonathan Gomez, to play the six strings so Bobby could open the show with with all his energy and … you know … yell at people. The three-piece band was so stoked on Gomez’s playing, they later decided to bring him on full time, thus officially becoming a four-piece. Glad to see you part of the family, Jonathan!
The absolute first thing I noticed was Santen’s voice. I honestly did not expect that sound to come out of him! If you were to mix honey and gravel and squeeze it from toothpaste tube, that is how I’d describe his voice. It was smooth and controlled yet hard as nails. The best I can compare him to would be Sully Erna mixed with a little Lajon Witherspoon. But quite honestly, his voice is all his own … one of those voices you’d never confuse with any other singer. It was also entertaining to watch the passion pour from Bobby’s whole body. From his face to his shoulders to his chest, he was visibly giving it everything he had. Oh, and remember when he said he jinxed himself and would fuck up? Yeah, he did. But minimally … he missed his cue at the beginning of one of the songs but laughed it off, and so did the crowd. It was charming to see how the band would recover to a very minor setback.
The song that stood out most to me during the set was the song was called “Greed”. The drums were heavy on all three toms giving it almost a tribal feel during some parts, however the overall sound seems to shift styles just enough to peak your interest throughout. Speaking of interesting, watching drummer R.J. play slightly resembles Animal from the Muppets with a much better haircut. Wild! Not to mention, you couldn’t miss bass player, Justin, sporting his neon green gear and Cookie Monster (can you tell I have babies?) backup vocals. Towards the end of their set, Dirt Halo covered “Sober” by Tool but with their own twist. Much like Devildriver did with “Sail”, Dirt Halo made the song sound a little rougher than the original, which I really enjoyed.
Overall, I was stoked on the whole night. Yes, I felt the need to headbang which is always a good sign in my book! All their songs stayed true to their personal sound without getting repetitive, which can be hard for a lot of bands to achieve. Being such a new band, I think they could afford a few more live shows together to really mesh and intertwine their talents. Luckily, they are all great musicians with a lot of dedication and should have no problem adapting to each other on stage. I can truly say that I look forward to Dort Halo’s … oops … DIRT HALO’s next performance and I hope they pack the house!
Written by: Cassi Davis