All images by Jaime Baker/MIMC
Not in my wildest dreams did I think that when I left Rumba Café last February, that I would not be covering another band until October of the next year. I had at least 3 shows on my calendar for the next month, including the always popular Steadfast Festival. But life as we know it happened, and suddenly everything was postponed or outright cancelled. I didn’t find myself in a concert hall again until last Friday.
Fortunately, I was still able to “meet” bands on Zoom, and throughout the pandemic I was still able to discover tremendous musicians around the state, one of whom was Cleveland based rock act TRVSS. When the band announced that they’d be returning to Columbus for their first show here since 2019, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to see them in person.
The location was Ruby Tuesday Live, with its bright green pool tables, dark-lit stage and famous basement bathrooms. It’s hard to argue with a venue that promotes a happy hour special of a $2.75 fresh baked cheese pizza, and so I found myself sitting at the bar, watching the bands file in and set up for the first hour after the doors opened. I was unsure of what a concert would look like post-lockdown, yet still during the pandemic. Would the house be packed? Would people wear masks? Or would anyone even show up at all to see a headliner from Cleveland and two locals?
The bar staff was courteous and kept our drinks cold as slowly but surely patrons filed inside. Palette Knife gave us an energetic opening set, and as they finished dealing out their punkish grooves, I noticed that the majority of the concert room had filled with bodies. Many of us were already standing up by the stage as singer Hannah Crandall ushered the rest of the crowd forward to feed off their collective energies.
The set opened with drummer Holden Szalek slapping around on his kit before guitarist Eric Kennedy and bassist Thomas Ratstatter joined in to play Led Zeppelin’s instrumental track Moby Dick. While Szalek is no John Bonham, the trio did get the crowd nodding and bouncing before Crandall joined the boys on stage for Reset My Head, the third track from the band’s 2019 EP Live At Weird Music Studios. Crandall’s dynamic stage presence was immediately felt even if her mic volume was a little low for the first few songs.
The band dedicated their next song, All The Bugs to some guy in the crowd who was looking at his phone at the time, which brought a chuckle from the crowd. Crandall flashed her trademark smile while she sang and danced around, and Kennedy ripped off a solo that actually raised the temperature in the room by a few degrees. Okay, that might have been because I was standing in front of him, but it was an absolute ripper.
By the time the band played Broken Glass, the microphone levels had been evened out, and Crandall asked the crowd to chant along every time she shouted “HEY!”. The people around me were happy to oblige, and Ratstatter’s bass had the stage rumbling as we all chanted with the band on the chorus. You could tell that several people in the crowd had seen TRVSS before as they seemed to share inside jokes with Crandall and the boys, including a prolonged chant between songs for Ratstatter to take off his shirt. Kennedy informed me that he used to live across the street from the bar and that they used to play there often when he went to Ohio State.
What You Know opened with a rambling bass/guitar combo that carried throughout the song. The song featured another screeching solo from Kennedy that almost felt like Tom Morello was up on stage, sans the ballcap. Actually, during What You Know Kennedy figured out how to switch on the air fan next to his rig, which caused his hair to majestically fly around as he strummed his six string.
Crandall announced they were going to play a few new songs, which brought another roar from the crowd around me. The first offering, New Boy, again featured a heavy dose of Ratstatter’s and Szalek’s rhythm section, and sounded like a song that the band had been playing for years. The latter was a slower number titled Drown, which had a much more melodic feel on the verses. Even with the energy level dialed back, Crandall showed her range as she reached new highs on the song.
After that it was time for Mayhem, the band’s most popular song with over 450k streams on Spotify alone. Even with most of the crowd wearing masks, I could see that people were singing along as they swayed and head-banged, which brought another big smile to the face of the band’s frontwoman.
8 songs into the band’s first Columbus show in over 2 years and they still had a few more tricks up their sleeves. Crandall asked if anyone in the crowd liked covers, which of course garnered a wall of applause. Kennedy kicked off Black Sabbath’s 1971 classic Into The Void with a heavy 2 minute instrumental blitz that crushed anything they had played previously. Although TRVSS are a great hard rock band, I wouldn’t call anything they’ve written so far as heavy as what Tony, Geezer and Bill used to put out. Still, the trio of musicians put forth a champions effort, and it was a thrill to hear their singer put her own twist on Ozzy’s iconic vocals.
It was at this point that Crandall gave the crowd a choice of 3 covers that they could perform, and almost in unison everyone around me agreed that they wanted to hear Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name. But the band couldn’t start without the crowd finally convincing Ratstatter to remove his shirt, similar to the RATM boys back in the day as well. An all-out mosh-pit broke out behind me as the song started, literally shaking the foundations at Ruby’s as the voices around me sang in unison when the song reached its iconic bridge.
“The best shows are the ones where the crowd is really responsive,” Kennedy told me after the set. I can’t say I disagree, and the applause was enough to keep the room shaking until the quartet left the stage. It genuinely felt amazing to feel the floor shake at a show again. Alt-rockers A Cure For Love finished the night off for us with their quirky blend of artistic songs, and I was able to chat with Kennedy and Crandall before the evening ended.
“It’s good to be back. No, scratch that. It was exhilarating,” quipped Kennedy.
“I knew I missed doing it, but I didn’t realize by how much,” added Crandall.
“I feel like it was almost a year and a half wasted because of COVID!” lamented Kennedy. “The best marketing we have is playing a live show. I feel like we could convince just about anyone to be a fan of TRVSS if they came to a show once.”
It’s worth mentioning that we were chatting out on the front patio of the bar, and almost every person who left the venue stopped to tell the band how great they were on the evening. Personally I have to agree, but moreover it was amazing just to be at a show after a year and a half long hiatus. If this is how things are going to be on the other side of the pandemic, I cannot wait to see it.
- Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin cover)
- Reset My Head
- All The Bugs
- Broken Glass
- What You Know
- New Boy*
- Into The Void (Black Sabbath cover)
- Killing In The Name (Rage Against The Machine cover)
*denotes new song