To see their pictures side-by-side, Dave Brenton and Toney Rocks don't look like they have much in common. Looks can be deceiving, though. Both men are Delaware-bred musicians whose affinities for blues music—and each other—will finally put them side-by-side on stage this weekend at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Bar in Smyrna.
Brenton, known as Snarky Dave to his growing legion of fans, is a Townsend resident known for hosting semi-regular large-scale jams at his home, the Dragonfly Air Ranch. The jam sessions are always open to anyone who wants to play or just listen, as long as you bring a covered dish, you're welcome. Musicians who've never met before get to play together, connections are born and magical music moments are made.
"I love getting to play with people," Brenton said before the last jam session last spring. "What happens is that you get up on stage with people you've never played with before and you just start playing. It's so awesome."
That sort of magic is how Brenton and Rocks' relationship began as well. Snarky was laying tracks for his last album when his producer, award-winning musician Joey Fulkerson suggested that Rocks step in to do drums. Brenton agreed and was immediately impressed.
"He listened to the songs as they were with the previous drummer. I watched him make a few notes," Brenton said. "Then, he went in and nailed it. He's really something and so much more talented than some people even know."
The respect is mutual. Rocks explained that they're professional relationship then grew into a more personal relationship, inspiring him on and off the stage.
"First, I genuinely respect his abilities, especially his songwriting," Rocks said. "It reminds me of my mentor and other musicians I've admired. He's not singing. He's not talking. It's this great space in between that not everyone can do."
Their fondness for one another will likely be evident on-stage as well. They finish each other's sentences and will be singing each other's songs.
"The only covers people will hear are the ones we do of each other's stuff," Brenton explained. "You won't have to sit through 'Mustang Sally' or 'Free Bird,' which, of course, gets covered all the time. It's all original material."
They also make each other laugh and consider subjects they've never considered before. For Brenton, he said that his eyes have been opened in a hundred different ways through his relationship with Rocks, adding that Rocks' lyrical style is a little different than his because his songs typically have a clear message.
Page 2 of 2 - "I try to follow the old country adage about writing songs that says that, for the most part, you always write about other people," Rocks said. "I just think that the best songs take it away from the actual songwriter and make it about other people."
It's that philosophy that's led Rocks to write about poverty, homelessness and personal liberation. It's also why he's only ever written two love songs. He wants the audience to enjoy his music and to think but not get too close.
He sets his lyrics to what he calls progressive blues and rock rhythms, using synthesizers and electronic beats to modernize "that raw blues thing" and make it his own.
The two men acknowledge that their musical inclinations seem disparate—and, in some respects they are—but, they're also both convinced that those differences are why the show is going to be so much fun.
"People are going to see a cool mixture of two generations centered firmly on blues music," Rocks said.
Brenton agreed, adding that they're both "working really hard to make sure people don't get ripped off" and that people feel like they're getting their money's worth."
"I'm really looking forward to sharing the stage with Toney and singing the blues with him," Brenton said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."