Rose Hill Drive | 04.01.04 | 12 Galaxies | San Francisco,
"Hey man you gotta go check out Rose Hill Drive tonight."
"Ahh, ya I think I'm gonna make it."
"NO. GO SEE ROSE HILL DRIVE TONIGHT."
And with those words from some faithful fans of the heavy I made my way to 12 Galaxies in San Francisco's seedy Mission District. This power trio hailing from Boulder, Colorado and calling themselves Rose Hill Drive were opening for some band that weren't fit to wash their van. (Seriously, if RHD was opening for my band, I would have snuck out the back door and never looked back.) So I made my way across town early to catch their entire set. Coming off a much talked about show at South by Southwest, and having showcased for all the major labels, I was eager to see what all the hype was about.
Rose Hill Drive by Graham
It's a little past 9 p.m. and the bar is empty. A handful of people are sipping drinks, but oddly enough it's all industry people inside. I see some familiar faces from the scene, some bigger reps, some local peeps in the know, and a few older cats with dollar signs in their eyes. On stage, in front of their gear, lay two young hairy guys with faded t-shirts and worn out pants. The long blonde-haired guy is sitting on the edge of the stage with his hair in his face working over his unplugged bass as the other guy slams drum sticks into his sneakers. It's an amusing scene, almost out of movie, as girls chat about the band and various older gentlemen are introduced to the drummer. A third young man comes out from back stage and apparently the time has come to see what these cats are all about.
Five seconds. That's about how long it takes for you to realize these guys have something. Just what that something is would unfold itself over their far too short opening slot, but immediately one feels the power. Turns out that Daniel Sproul on lead guitar isn't even old enough to be in the bar (he's 19), and his brother Jake on bass and vocals just turned 21. Behind the kit is "Baby Bonham" and childhood friend Nate Barnes, who also recently turned 21. This motley crew grew up on Rose Hill Drive in Boulder, Colorado, and have been playing in garage bands since junior high. After high school (which must have been yesterday) they wisely decided to hit the road, and have been kicking the snot out of every venue they play.
Rose Hill Drive by Graham
OK, did ya get that? They're 19 and 21 years old. These fuckin' kids bring it like Zeppelin. I know, I know--serious words. And I wouldn't use them lightly. Now that I've laid that out there allow me to tread water for a second. It's not Zeppelin. We ain't gonna get another Zeppelin because they wrote the book; these kids have obviously read the good book and clearly learned their lessons. With a heavy dose of Zep this power trio draws from that whole era: Sabbath, Triumph, Rush, maybe some Metalica, and even a touch of some Seattle self-hate madness before Rolling Stone started calling it grunge. This shit came out of the gates smoking. It took about two or three songs for the pistons to get greased and it wasn't long until that 19-year-old kid Daniel went full-bore, smoke-show lightning, Jimmy Page face-melt. The small crowd stood with mouths agape and eyes buggin'. I shit you not, it was out of hand. As I watched Daniel laying on the Cry Baby and shredding with vengeance, I couldn't believe I can't legally buy this kid a whiskey drink.
Daniel Sproul by Graham
A few songs in, Jake (and his slightly punk presence, with tattooed knuckles and all) led the boys through one of the best readings of the old time favorite "Sitting On Top of the World" I can remember hearing. They completely broke it down and gave it a new face. They worked it over so thoroughly that if you weren't paying attention you could have missed it all together. One song after another Jake bled it on the mic, screaming till I thought he might hurt himself. All the while Nate is slamming the kit. With 30 people in the bar these kids are playing like its Giants Stadium. Loud as hell and all hot around the collar, this is what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be like. 15-minute guitar solos, driving, head-wrenching bass, and an overall attack that is absolutely impossible to deny.
If you're sick of sappy ballads by the keyboard player, generic covers, and weak attempts at harmonies, step away from the dime-a-dozen jam bands that pop up like zits on the mug of our evolving scene. If you're sick of meandering two-guitar "attacks" over simple bass lines and polyrhythmic drumming, come on over to Rose Hill Drive and have your ass kicked back a few decades. Rock 'n' roll is here to stay.
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