Columbus’ own Truslow returned to the Rumba Café after a three year hiatus on February 28. In spite of the 20 degree wind chill, there was already a line of two dozen people queued outside of the Rumba Café ten minutes prior to the show.
Considering the group’s popularity and successful run in the past, it wasn’t surprising that the show sold out within weeks of being announced. In fact, one person at the bar told me that the demand was so high on tickets that if another venue had been available, the show probably would have been bumped up to allow for more fans to experience it.
In the past years, it had been reported that the group was working on a follow up to their massively popular 2014 EP Hurricane, but nothing had come from those rumors. The band’s namesake, singer and keyboardist James Truslow, said that he had been sitting on stuff he had written. After a conversation with original guitarist Sean Mackowski, he decided to get the band back together to record more tunes. To complete the ensemble, he enlisted the help of his previous band mates – guitarist Sam Beaumier, bassist Andrew Lee and drummer Matt Myers.
The entire venue was abuzz with excitement for the show. Local duo Backyard Sticks were also making their return from hiatus, and many of the folks in attendance had made the journey to see the veteran Indiana power-pop trio Shiny Penny. But there was no doubt who the headliner was for the evening; you could barely move from side to side due to the amount of patrons packed into the small Columbus club.
The stage was set with beaming light towers and a massive red haze spread out among the crowd as the four instrumentalists took their places; guitarists Mackowski and Beaumier flanking the keyboard in the forefront, with Myers and Lee taking place behind them. Beaumier took center stage to strum out the soaring opening to Dead, a song from the group’s eponymous EP, released in 2013. Truslow himself finally took the stage, uttering one of the more iconic lines from said EP, “Hear these warnings from the grave – this life you’re holding must be saved.”
From there it was right into the hand-clapping, upbeat Moving On, which featured all four standing members slapping their hands together as the entire crowd joined in. The song featured a more straight-forward rock feel, before Truslow went back to his piano and got the crowd moving again with the bouncy opening to Words of the Wise. It didn’t matter if you knew the words or not, because everyone in attendance knows how to sing the “whoa-oh-oh” part of the chorus, and so they did partake.
Before Electrified, Truslow thanked the crowd for coming out and announced, “After a three year hiatus, we’ve got a lot of pent up energy. Let’s leave it all on the floor tonight!” Electrified had a dubstep/trance feel to it and definitely pulsed a new wave of energy throughout the crowd. Myers and Lee provided a fantastic backbone, as the lights and heavy smokescreen made the club almost look like a midnight rave.
Send Me Away brought back a healthy dose of guitar work, with Beaumier again taking the lead. On the bridge of the song Truslow again called out to the crowd, “If you have anything going on tonight, anything bothering you at all, when we shout ‘HEY!’ I want you to put your arms up and let it go.” The chorus of the song states, “I’ve got to find a way to let it go,” and the combined group catharsis was strong enough to cut down the fog in the bar.
As the haze cleared, the band started into an intriguing cover of David Guetta’s Titanium. Truslow himself had more than enough range to cover Sia’s vocals on the song, and the guitarists brought the second chorus to new thundering heights, before bringing the song back to Earth. I asked James why he chose this specific cover and he said that when it was released, it was a difficult time for him and the song helped get him through it all.
Keeping with the somber tone, the solemn piano of Lover kicked off the second half of the evening. Myers left his kit and brought out a tom and a snare to play with the rest of the group, while Lee’s bass shone above the lighter guitars before the song hit its final crescendo. At this time I realized that I needed to allow myself to blink, but I did not want to miss a single second of what I was seeing on the stage.
Fortunately, the fog cleared enough that we could see the entire band again, and Truslow stood at his piano to start the twinkling piano of Doctor, a song about how the world tries to confuse us all, but if you’ve already been saved then that world really has nothing to offer you. It was another one of those songs that really drove its emotional stake into me live. As the song concluded, the band played a little instrumental as Truslow himself left the stage and Beaumier jumped onto his piano stool, ripping off a resounding solo before the room went dark.
As Truslow came back out, he announced that he wanted to do something different that they had only tried a few times before. He invited the crowd to write the song with him, and asked for a chord progression and topic. From behind me someone shouted out, “Apples!” This brought laughs from both the crowd and the musicians.
Ever the showman, Truslow showed his clever lyrical wit, singing about “two leaves on a tree”, “rotten to the core”, and “are you red or are you green?” He asked for another chord and topic, and someone suggested that he sing about Mackowski. Another round of laughs followed and, try as he might, he couldn’t come up with two lines about his guitarist.
Speaking of Mackowski, he helped sing the first verse of Liar, on which Truslow also brought out the band’s original drummer Chris Salih to play along. The song started as a piano-first number before the guitars took over in the second half, punctuated by another blazing Beaumier solo. Truslow announced that this was the first show they had played with two guitarists and asked how they were doing as a five-piece.
Obviously, we all applauded. The evening had been a fantastic return for all three of the groups playing, but the headlining act brought so much passion and power that we couldn’t help but cheer heartily. The group had exhausted the majority of their catalogue at this point, and I think everyone in attendance knew what had to be coming next.
As the cheers and applause died down, the lights went dim once more. Hurricane featured another somber piano opening, with Truslow’s voice echoing through the room before the rest of the crowd started singing along to the chorus line “You carry me ho-o-ome…” It seemed like everyone around me knew the words, and we were all clapping along as the band on stage poured every ounce of emotion into the sensational title track.
Saving the best for last, Truslow called upon the crowd once more, asking if any of us were “a little bit off the wall?” A cheer arose, as many around me realized the band was about to launch into arguably their most popular song, ADHD. After the bridge, Truslow jumped down with the rest of us and started bouncing with the crowd for the final round of the chorus. I’m not sure if it was scripted, but with the amount of crowd participation that had already happened that evening, it seemed only appropriate that he come out and join us, at least for a short while.
Salih came out once more with a microphone in his hand, and this time started singing with Mackowski on the unreleased track Goodnight. Truslow told me that the song was something short and sweet that they had written previously and felt was perfect to close their shows. As the group left the stage, I swear it was as loud as I’ve ever heard it in the Rumba, and very quickly from around me rose the chant of “One more song!” The crowd persisted with the chant for two solid minutes before the lights came back up.
Of course the band obliged another tune, with Truslow asking the crowd, “Is anyone tired of this snow?” As the band had played, a good two inches had fallen on the city of Columbus, but it was still as warm as it could be inside, as the band sang Vacation¸ a song about, obviously, getting away with all of it. Everyone around me had one more chance to sing along to the “la-di-da” line on the song before the band took their final departure from the stage.
After not playing any shows in the capital city for over three years, the group showed that their staying power is as strong as it has ever been, and gave us all a taste of what we might expect with their new five-piece lineup.
Truslow told me that at some point this year that he hopes to release some of the new tunes, and I for one sure hope that he does as well. If they should be playing live again, you should do yourself a favor and definitely check them out!
Credit all images: Susan Muller / MIMC
- Moving on
- Words of the Wise
- Send Me Away
- Titanium (David Guetta cover)
- Crowd Songs – “Apples” and “Sean Mackowski”
- Goodnight (unreleased)
- Vacation (encore)