Rebecca Roudman always knew she would play cello.
“Originally, my mom wanted me to play the harp when I was seven years old, but we didn’t have a big enough car. So she put me on the cello,” Roudman recalls.
The Marin-based musician leads the critically acclaimed band Dirty Cello, which is making a local appearance at Mill Valley’s Sweetwater Music Hall on Friday, Sept. 16. And this is after touring from Iceland to the Middle East, continental Europe, China and beyond in recent years. Throughout, Dirty Cello has won fans worldwide, but not from playing soothing string arrangements.
“If you’re expecting a beautiful cello concert that’s very mellow, you’re not going to get that. You’re going to get the exact opposite,” says Roudman. “In fact, what we do is we basically, when we step on stage, we have a giant pile of songs in our repertoire, and then we start rocking and we see what the audience likes.”
Dirty Cello truly has no pre-planned sets. Instead, if an audience wants to hear what Eric Clapton would sound like as a virtuosic cello player, they will provide just that. Though she is classically trained and currently plays with the Santa Rosa Symphony and Oakland Symphony, classical music hadn’t been Roudman’s first passion.
“I was always interested in playing other music. And this really reared its ugly head when I started playing with bands on my cello,” she recalls. “I remember I played with a blues band, and I was playing these long, boring notes. And the guitar player got to have all the fun. He got to do all the cool solos. He got to sing to the audience. And I got very jealous. And I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
And a rock cellist and vocalist was born. First, Roudman set to learning all the great guitar solos of the rock genre. Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” check. Anything by Slash, check. Soon, she and her husband, Jason, began playing in cafes as a duo. “We’d get paid in cookies. And sometimes they’d run out of cookies, and then we wouldn’t get paid,” Roudman laughs, looking back. Eleven years later, the couple is part of a full-fledged band that tours all over the world.
“If people want to find me on social media and let me know what song they’d like to hear, they’re welcome to tell me. And we keep trying it, as long as it’s not a Grateful Dead song,” she laughs.
Instagram.com/dirtycello and facebook.com/dirtycellomusic are places to start.
To get a sampling of what a Dirty Cello cover might sound like, visit the band’s Bandcamp page at dirtycello.bandcamp.com and click-thru the tunes on their album, By Request. Cut to the chase and listen to their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” and if you don’t have a full-on conversion experience, you may need to get your ears checked.
Dirty Cello performs at 8pm, Friday, Sept. 16 (doors open at 7pm) at Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley. $20. All ages.