There is an anticipatory sort of joy that accompanies watching a band perform you have never heard of. In the charged milliseconds before they play their first chord, you are almost totally ignorant of what’s to come.
The instruments and the setup and the musicians’ outfits might give you a sense of the overall ambience but everything else—the style of the music about to come, the volume, the energy, the feeling it will leave behind with you—is a mystery.
Then, the hands fall onto their instruments and the music ensues.
I first saw Red Rose Panic (RRP) two summers ago at The Euclid Tavern. The night was a double header, starting with The People’s weekly poetry slam/open mic and ending with RRP’s electrifying performance.
RRP’s music was in sharp contrast to the somber mood of the poetry before it. It had the audience dancing on their feet, strangers taking strangers in hand to move to the music. It was loud, powerful and charged.
The guitarist, Styxx, grinded and wailed like he was making a tribute to Nirvana; the drummer, Reo Dinero, played with the flair of Carter Beauford; SMOKEFACE and Lou held it all together with an incredibly tight keyboard and bass.
And the frontman, Luminari, channeled this hard-rock energy into biting raps that were almost melodic in their syncopation.
The Akron-based group brought the same energy to the Grog Shop on Sept. 29, playing songs from their only studio album, “TIME ATTACK,” and newer singles. They were one of three acts of the night; they and local solo act Peachcurls were openers for the Brooklyn-based musical group Phony Ppl.
But while Phony Ppl was the big name of the night, RRP managed to carve their own presence into the program in a powerful way.
Highlights of their set included the first song the group wrote together, “Heart Left.” One of their originals, “Hoppin Fences” incorporated Mario’s “Let Me Love You”, which had the audience waving their arms and singing along. Then, as usual, they ended with “PTE (Party Time Excellent),” a song as energetic and upbeat as its name suggests.
There is a sense that when RRP plays together, they are truly at home. Every note is planned, but the delivery feels raw. Their songs journey through a wide range of dynamics, of rhythmic experimentation and genre-crossing riffs. Alongside all the blaring energy is a sense of community and mission—they know Cleveland, and they are making sure Cleveland knows them.