Mercury Lounge, 28 April 2007
[torrent of this show here or stream some Rose Hill Drive from a recent show while you read...]
I felt like there was a white duck following me around Mercury Lounge on Saturday abruptly squealing "AFLAC!" every couple of songs. The occasion was the Rose Hill Drive show and I spent much of it feeling the limits of my flesh and bones, wondering if I needed supplemental insurance.
It was about 3 songs into the set that I was wondering if my normal coverage would cover all the hemorrhaging my ears were doing. You see, Rose Hill Drive was making my ears bleed. Sharp, loud, intense -- guitar, bass, drums -- ouch, ouch, ouch. It was a cranking start to the show. The room was crowded and loose for a Saturday night and they lit right into it. There was a "Showdown" early on and they wasted no time getting onto the Hendrix bus with Band of Gypsy's "Power of Love," but song titles didn't seem to matter much to me and my ears. There are few bands doing what Rose Hill Drive can do every night -- Wolfmother, Earl Greyhound and, um, you tell me. None are doing the base, primal power trio face-melter thing with as much talent and zest as these guys. Not many have ever done it -- Jimi Hendrix, Cream and, um, you tell me. I'll take these under appreciated boots-to-the-head over whatever you got. I hadn't felt this way about a band since the first time I saw Gov't Mule for the first time almost a decade ago. A couple songs into the set and my head was buzzing, my nose was running and my ears were bleeding. What would happen if I lost my hearing -- or sense of smell or taste for that matter? (the rock was burrowing deep into me like a parasite, nibbling away at my soul from the inside)? [AFLAC!]
It was about 6 songs in, when the band went into a 3-song mash that I was wondering about my hips. The rock and roll was now nestled itself deep in my body, feeding off the whiskey in the blood stream and compelling my body to move. Problem is, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go the air guitar (or bass or drums) route or flail about wildly in true ROWYCO fashion or slam my head into whiplash or what. I settled on some weird combination of the three and I'm not sure my joints were up to the task. There was no let-up, no time to rest the bones, just pure shredding nonsense. What would happen if I threw my hip out of whack trying to keep up with Rose Hill's nasty, body-shakin' rock and roll? [AFLAC!]
An hour and a half into the set and now it was my shoulder. I was now fully zoned into the show and the band and the crowd -- I had become ultrasensory. The trio was locked in so tight to each other that singling out a singular, primal lick from the guitar or a pure liquid, bowel-rattling bass bomb or fearlessly fluttering drum fill seemed ridiculous. It was all coming at me at a steady stream and the only reaction I could muster was full-fledged fist pump -- as high and as hard as I could for as long as my shoulder, my poor, poor shoulder, could stand it. I was not alone in proclaiming rock and roll triumph -- the crowd pulsed as one unit the way the band did, fists raised high in the sweaty air. What would I be reduced to if my shoulder never lived to pump again? [AFLAC!]
Finally, 90 minutes into pure sonic bliss, as the band wound down to a close, I worried about my liver. We call a lot of music "rock and roll" but what are we really talking about? What is the metaphysical -ness that makes something rock and roll? With whiskey, the rules are clear cut: the grains, the country and county of origin, the barrel it's made in... all of these things come to define a bourbon or a scotch. Whatever the essence of rock and roll is, the things that spawned the air guitar, the fist pump, the black t-shirt, devil's horns from raised index and pinkie and the distortion pedal... Rose Hill Drive has got it. Is it. Power trio to the core, they don't rely on fancy songwriting or long-winded guitar solos or witty banter to make it through their evening. They just fucking rock and rock and rock and rock. There is nothing new being invented here, no new ground being broken. I could go into details on which song got stretched into a psychedelic puddle and which just slammed rock into hard place; about scintillating six-string excellence meshing perfectly with a glory-bound rhythm section; about wild-eyed long haired youth taking back their historical place on the mantel with amplifiers and twirling drumsticks in hand... but you've heard this shit before -- just not this good. They have just taken the basic rules and distilled their own batch of can't-miss rockitude. And I was drinking it by the gobletful Saturday night and it was going straight into my bloodstream while my poor liver did it's best to keep up lest I go into toxic shock. I know my insurance doesn't cover rock and roll overdose -- how would I taste that sweet, burning rock and roll without my liver? [AFLAC!]
A postscript prologue to the evening...
Swing Space, 28 April 2007
Started off way, way downtown in an attempt to catch Bobby Previte in a little "d" duo with Marco Benevento. There was music involved in this adventure, but sometimes it's about the music plus all the other things put together. I don't recall ever taking a train ride to Wall St. to see music, but that's where I found myself -- like I was on another planet. It took several passes to find the "venue" -- called Swing Space for the LMCC -- it was some sort of office building lobby masquerading as an artists space. My trip to another planet had its Cantina scene. The place was almost too bright -- unadorned white walls, high ceilings, exposed metal pipes... it was like a life-sized installation piece representing a lobby under construction or abandoned or I don't know. Ikea folding chairs were scattered about the floor, filled with 25 or so people in deep trance. The stage was up against the far wall and demarcated by, I kid you not, yellow CAUTION tape on the three exposed side. Yes, caution indeed! I was super late -- the lady taking my $5 gave an apologetic shrug as she checked her watch -- but I took a seat and immersed myself in the... er... music being made on stage.
It was certainly interplanetary. Electric and electronic. If this was an art space with blank canvas walls, Bobby and Marco were doing their best to fill it with art. Not painting, but real-time sculpting of time and space and 1's and 0's. You could almost hear the tranistors firing as each looped and sampled and played some music and drums. Marco is a musician who seems to just mesh -- his kindergarten teacher would be proud to know that he plays well with others. Benevento is a musical linguist and he and Previte have their own language. For stretches of time they would barely acknowledge each other and yet they were in full on conversation. Deep penetrating thoughts hung in the air while new ones were being formed. It didn't take long for the trance to take over as I moved to a closer seat and closed my eyes.
Marco played electric piano and some hooter and toy box occasionally with eyes opened and occasionally hitting buttons with striped-socked feet; Bobby played drums and cymbals and buttons and knobs and some thingie that he hit with rapid precision that made ethereal noises that reached into the rafters. Improvisation -- pure improvisation. We can talk about people improvising, about the free spirit of jazz or jam, but who really, truly improvises? Makes up something where there is nothing, relying on the moment, a random number generator spitting out beautiful, coherent sequences. That is the language that these two speak and while we, sitting there in awe, may not have understood it all, we got enough of it, enough to know it was worth listening to for minutes or hours. Would it have mattered if I had gotten there on time? Would an hour been better than the 15 minutes I experienced. I saw enough. It reaffirmed everything I already knew and taught me a little bit more. Mostly it told me: don't miss Marco.
01 May 2007
Mercury Lounge, 28 April 2007