Rebecca Rodman began playing the cello as a child in Terra Linda, played with the Marine Youth Orchestra, studied classical music in college, and is now a member of the Santa Rosa and Oakland Symphonies.
All is well and good. But being a successful classical musician was not enough for her. Rodman wanted to rip, just like the worst rock guitarists do.
“I wanted to let my hair down and do something completely different from the classic,” she says.
So, 11 years ago, she and her guitarist husband, Jason Eckel, formed a band, which they called Dirty Cello (dirtycello.com).
“I’ve always thought of classical music as a well-played cello, and I didn’t want it to be like that,” she says.
They began by experimenting with rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, Irish music, Eastern European music, a little bit of everything.
“We didn’t know what we wanted,” she recalls. “We wanted to see what we wanted to play.”
To gain experience and exposure, they performed anywhere they could, often for free, but not always. A coffee shop was paying them in pastries. They may not have been making any money at first, but they were building a fan base. Within a few months, they had become famous enough to sell the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley.
“People wanted to hear something different, and Dirty Cello is definitely that,” Rodman says. “If you want to listen to your favorite guitar songs being played on the cello, this is a very unique experience.”
The rock band that a cellist faces isn’t inaudible, but you can count it on your fingers. And there’s more to Dirty Cello than the novelty of a cellist rocking Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, or the Rolling Stones. Rodman has built a reputation as a committed and energetic live performer.
“Anyone who was in the audience when Dirty Cello took the stage knows that something unique happens when cellist Rebecca Rodman and the group come face to face with fans who live, breathe (and shout and scream),” reads a review in Strings magazine.
Over the past decade, Dirty Cello has released six albums and toured the United States and around the world, performing in Italy, Spain, England, Belgium, France, Israel, China and Iceland, where she once played in a silo used to process herring.
Couple Novato and five-piece Dirty Cello play a rare concert in his hometown at 7 p.m. Friday, and the outdoor Sunset Series begins at Rancho Nicasio.
“Our philosophy is still that we rarely turn down an offer and the weirder the better,” Rodman says.
This was especially true during the worst days of the pandemic. With gigs few and far between, Dirty Cello was able to secure a reservation for an outdoor concert at a nudist resort near Santa Cruz.
“You can socialize and everyone was very respectful and kept their masks — nothing else,” Rodman recalls. “We kept our clothes, but found the whole experience beyond distracting, especially when they brought in our hula hoops.”
At one point, Rodman and Eckel got so desperate for a performance that they asked the Auckland Zoo if they could come and play for their captive audience.
“I couldn’t believe they actually said yes,” she says. “So we gave a performance to all the animals that didn’t really care about us.”
With the exception of a small green Amazon parrot named Brook (short for Broccoli) who traded with the band on the blues. The cross-species crowding video went viral and was featured in the local TV news.
Now that Dirty Cello is touring again, Roudman and Eckl hit the road every weekend with the same enthusiasm that initially inspired them to replace classical music with classic rock.
“It’s funny because people think what we do is work,” she says. “But when you’re on stage and you feel the energy of the crowd and you smile and smile, it’s not work, it’s just happiness. And that’s what we love.”
Contact Paul Liberatore at [email protected]
if you go
what or what: dirty cello
When: 7 pm on Friday
where: Rancho Necasio, 1 Old Rancheria Rd, Necasio