REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Rose City Band, The Crescent, York, June 3

Ripley Johnson leading Rose City Band at The Crescent. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

MUSIC that struck just the right chord with the time and place. With the sun still singing in the York Pride smiles, Rose City Band put on the perfect concert to celebrate a long summer Saturday.

The five-piece from Portland, Oregon, the creation of Ripley Johnson (who also helms Wooden Shjips), made it look almost effortless. Such was their empathy for one another that one glorious groove followed another.

Like the Grateful Dead’s golden early Seventies’ period (the lysergic spirit of Cumberland Blues hung over proceedings, although Frank Zappa may have also been in there somewhere), Rose City Band play extended country rock songs full of wonderful moments that merge into one overall whole. While their studio albums are beautiful slow burns, this is music made for performing live.

Rosali: “Played an excellent opening set”

Playing a well-chosen selection that took in the highs from Summerlong (one of the best lockdown albums) and their new Garden Party release, the combined musical nous of these musicians lifted Ripley’s creations into the memorable.

His clean guitar lines (with none of the fuzz that surrounds Wooden Shjips) were consistently glorious, and Ripley’s interplay with Paul Hasenberg on keyboard were high flying indeed. Ripley eschewed any rock god guitar moves while Hasenberg was a more animated figure, coaxing a range of songs from his mellotron and keyboards; giving it all for the performance.

The tone for the night had been set with North Carolina’s Rosali (full name Rosali Middleman), who played an excellent opening set. She unveiled material from her freshly recorded new album (although given how slowly the industry’s wheels turn it may not be out for some time).

Rosali playing with Rose City Band

Taking proceedings at her own tempo, she commanded the stage not unlike a younger Lucinda Williams, and shares Williams’s emotional directness. Accompanied by pedal-steel guitarist Zena Kay, it was a treat to see this instrument in the spotlight.

For her closing two songs, the rest of Rose City Band came out,and in turn Rosali took centre stage for the final four numbers of their set. In full flight these tunes were a real treat, “only on the road” musical moments that can’t be streamed.

The full house was grinning from ear to ear, many eyes closed, mesmerised as they soaked in the tunes. It was a gloriously uplifting, life-affirming show.  Thanks to Joe Coates’s Please Please You, the Crescent hosts many fine concerts, but it is hard to believe this one won’t be right up there among the year’s best.

Review by Paul Rhodes

Ripley Johnson: “His clean guitar lines were consistently glorious”