I listen to and like a lot of different music. And recorded music is great, but the magic…the magic, for me, lives in the live performance. Every once in awhile, I see a band live for the first time and it’s like having an encounter with your crush – you get butterflies and you feel that unmistakable magnetism of connection. Sometimes, you go into a show expecting it or hoping for it to happen. And sometimes, it takes you unaware, hitting you in your ears and heart hard enough to make you dizzy.
On Saturday night, I got completely gobsmacked when I went to see The Rouge from Nashville, TN (by way of Denver, CO). This is not an exaggeration – I walked out of The Double Door weak in the knees.
I first got introduced to this band in early 2010 when my dearest Christopher Jak produced a track for them at The Blasting Room. As with anything that Jak touches, I check it out because the dude has impeccable musical taste. With a sound that is distinctly modern rock, heavy on the keys and with a great raw vocal, I liked them enough to put them on my Spring 2010 mix. I listened to the EP occasionally here and there. A few weeks ago, I noticed that they were playing a gig in Charlotte. “Cool,” I thought. “I’ll go check them out.”
So I went. By myself. And got there way too early. So I sat and watched a college football game with the bartenders. At one point, the lead singer and drummer from The Rouge bellied up to the bar next to me and I asked them if they would play my favorite song of theirs, “Six Shooter.” Since this might be the first time they’ve ever played in Charlotte, they seemed genuinely surprised that someone was there to see them and actually knew their songs. Josh, the lead singer who was incredibly gracious, chatted with me for a bit, gave me a handwritten, burned copy of some new songs. Two thumbs up, I thought, nice guys.
They’re a lean four piece that’s seen some lineup changes since I first heard them – guitar player Steve doubling as keyboardist, Nick on drums, Jack (the only member I didn’t meet) on bass, and of course Josh singing and playing guitar.
They climbed on stage quietly, amidst a crowd that had slowly filtered in – most of them didn’t know the band, several were there to see the openers. Josh stepped on stage last with just an acoustic guitar. When the music started and the four of them were playing together, it was instantaneous – I knew right away that this was going to put to shame the recorded music I’d heard of theirs up until now.
And after one song, the crowd was paying attention.
They played mostly new songs…I was totally caught up in it. Seriously, I don’t think I saw or heard a single thing happening in the room for the next 45 minutes. Josh’s voice has a powerful depth and emotion live, and he and Steve perfectly play off one another. Jack and Nick work together to form this incredible backbone. It was just good, solid rock n’ roll music, complete with really strong songwriting. Their connection with the intimate crowd was electric, and by the end of the show, other people in the room were buzzing about them. The chemistry was right – with them, with the audience, the venue, everything.
Sometimes I get a little bummed that I go to so many shows on my own, but sometimes, being alone at a show makes the experience so much more intense, and that was definitely the case with The Rouge. I’m such a huge dork that I took a poster that one of the bar staff was taking down off the wall. Like someone saving a wine cork from a great first date, I just wanted to have a souvenir from the night, something to remember the show by.
Yup, it’s official. New band crush in full effect.
I looked around for videos of them playing my new favorite of theirs, “Sleepwalking,” but the only video I could find was with some of the older band lineup when they were still living in Denver (it’s a killer song, and a video recorded in a tiny little bedroom – so worth watching). They do have a rather eerie video of Josh and Steve performing their song “Cocaine Hero” acoustic from a few weeks ago…So I’m posting that, but go check out their Facebook page for some others.