Rose Hill Drive
Seattle, Washington / Vancouver, British Columbia
Tractor Tavern / Richard's on Richards Cabaret
February 2 / 3, 2007
words/images by Candise Kola
The brothers Sproul, Jake (bass/vocals) and Daniel (guitar), and drummer Nate “the Foot” Barnes, better known as Rose Hill Drive, are clearly on a mission to bring classic rock and roll grooves back to the forefront for this generation.
While the rock gods I worshiped in my youth are steadily aging, their music has stood the test of time. It makes me happy to see Rose Hill Drive take the best of what classic rock has to offer and drive it to an unsullied level.
The rumors you may have already heard before reading this commentary are all true. These boys do a mighty potent job of playing rock classics (hands down the best Led Zeppelin covers I have ever seen live, primarily due to Jake's Robert Plant-esque vocal) but make no mistake – this is not a classic rock cover band.
Rose Hill Drive's original material is intelligent and compelling, and will have your head banging like it was 1975 all over again. The musicianship they bring to the stage is mind blowing. You don’t get any of the usual debauchery that you might expect to see on a rock and roll stage. These boys refrain from relying on the aberrant decadence that some of their predecessors used to captivate and entertain live audiences to get them through their evening's work.
Instead, Rose Hill Drive's recipe for success is simple: sobriety, hard-hitting rhythms, momentous vocals, and precise guitar licks. They speak with humble gratitude to every fan in the audience, always with genuine unadulterated sentiment. These young men know how to take, and give, a sincere compliment.
The Seattle show at the Tractor Tavern started off with a dramatic instrumental which the band refers to as “XII”. Captivating listeners with a slow-climbing crescendo, they then threw a strike straight to the ear drums with the fast moving “Showdown.”
Elmore James' “Look on Yonder Wall” and Led Zeppelin's “Dazed and Confused” were unleashed mid-show and soon had every mouth in the joint hanging wide open. It was entertaining to look about the room and pick out the people who are reacting to the noise for the first time. Stoned, immaculate smiles and nods of bliss were abundant.
Other originals “The Guru,” “Cool Cody,” and the rockingest love song ever recorded, “Mexico,” appeared before closing out the set with “Raise Your Hands,” a monumental ballad that asks questions about the current state of the world and how one does or doesn’t relate to it. An encore was called for, and the trio indulged the already satisfied but ringing ears with “Off to the Games.”
The next day's show in Vancouver was a 19-and-over show that was booked in a cabaret. That alone had my curiosity going and seemed to make for an adventure at the very least (no strippers ended up being present). Our progressive neighbors to the north offer alcohol to the adults at these all-ages gatherings without forcing them to enjoy the show from a fenced-in barricade unlike the state of Washington. This probably explains why I observed a more varied audience (from 19- 49 years old) enjoying the hell out of themselves.
The original material played was similar to the Seattle set list, but the cover songs integrated were switched out to Black Sabbath's “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Power to Love” by Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsies.
The biggest difference noted between the two shows was the audience’s enthusiasm level. The Canadian fans had five times the energy than the always joyous but more subdued Seattleites had to offer. Girls danced and boys raised their fists in the air as everyone dangled their torsos over the balcony above the stage, trying desperately to gain the attention of Daniel.
A posse of young'uns clung to the front row and took in every single note with so much adoration in their eyes it was heartwarming to witness. The band clearly celebrated the attention and performed to their and the audience's hearts' delight. I was very glad to have made the 4-hour journey, even if a passport and brief scrutinized border interview was required to enjoy the show.
If you have not yet seen Rose Hill Drive I urge you to check them out. Trust me. Your classic rock and roll-loving soul will be glad you did.