Rose Hill Drive, Mercury Lounge, New York City- 4/28
According to the ticket stub, the name of the headlining band was Rose Hill Drive. During the two hour set at New York City's Mercury Lounge, however, the band onstage did not sound like three guys from Colorado, but perhaps your favorite classic rock band. The trio's barrage of bludgeoning guitar and booming drums recalled the fierceness of Black Sabbath ad the majesty of Led Zeppelin. Their speedy delivery and youthful attitude echoed that of vintage Aerosmith. Catering to the jam scene, Rose Hill Drive also mirrored Hendrix's electric psychedelia while chugging along to an Allmans-esque boogie groove. In the hands of most bands, trying to sound like any number of classic rock acts is a tall order. Remaining original while also paying homage to the legends of the past can either be wondrous or a downright disaster. Thankfully, the boys (all the members are in their early 20's) of Rose Hill Drive were able to successfully juggle honoring their influences while blazing their own path. Take two covers that the band tackled that evening – Hendrix's "Power of Soul" and Black Sabbath's "Fairies Wear Boots." The trio dutifully captured the hard-rock thrash of the Sabbath classic with guitarist Daniel Sproul mimicking Tommy Iommi in his prime. Sproul's virtuosity on the axe led the tenacious Hendrix take, but soon gave way to a hazy funk jam. To their credit, Rose Hill Drive was able to conjure up the spirit of the era, right down to the smell of the bad pot.
The band has had plenty of guidance from numerous rock 'n' rollers. Already, the group has toured with The Who, Van Halen and the Black Crowes, in addition to mainstays like Trey Anastasio and Robert Randolph. Truthfully, Rose Hill Drive will not need much more help from heroes past and today's stars, as they are quite capable on their own. The offerings from their self-titled debut album alone testify to this. Opener "Showdown" rocketed along at a break-neck pace, allowing for some serious guitar shredding. The marching snarl of "Cool Cody," provided by drummer Nathan Barnes, paired with Sproul's menacing guitar, resulted in a head banging jam. The gritty, bluesy groove of "Reptilian Blues" (and its subsequent lengthy jam) seemed like a classic Cream cut. Simply put, Rose Hill Drive sound like the ultimate classic rock band, in the best sense possible.
The group has been road testing new material. "One Night Stand" contrasted most of the band's full throttle repertoire, opting instead for a soft rumble. Despite having a relaxed feeling, a sinister undercurrent ran through the song. This change of pace suits Rose Hill Drive well. The band did not stray too far from their bread and butter, though, as "Sneak Out" and "The Godfather" let the trio fire away on all cylinders.
Besides covering Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix, Rose Hill Drive went even further into rock 'n' roll history with Elmore James' "Look On Yonder Wall." The band paid their respects to the bluesman with an adept hard rock rendition. Kudos to Rose Hill Drive for knowing their (and their influences') roots. The remainder of the set found the group doing what they do best – churning out head banging rock. Barnes' pounding drums gave "Raise Your Hands" a royal sensibility, helping the roadhouse stomper move along. It's smart to have a song title that encourages crowd participation as well.
While they are not improvisational masters yet (they still are young, mind you), the cohesion is apparent. The song structure could use some work, though. Several songs during the night started off slowly, led into the actual song, and finished out with some intense jamming. Certainly, it's pleasant to hear (i.e. show closer "Off To The Games"), but some variance would make for a more interesting outing. In the case of "Cross The Line," the tune's smoky groove elicited a seductiveness (think "Purple Haze") rarely made by rock bands anymore, THEN Rose Hill Drive tore into a hard charging tandem. Instances like these make the show that more enjoyable, especially by such young talent.
As recent tourmates The Who sang, the kids are alright. Rose Hill Drive is doing their best to keep rock 'n' roll's past alive, such as by covering entire classic albums, while firmly looking forward to the horizon. As long as crowds want to see long haired dudes crank out rock music in small clubs (if Rose Hill Drive ever opened for My Morning Jacket, they could call it the "Long Hair, Big Guitars" tour), the group will be happy to oblige, fusing rock's heritage with its own unique flair.