Robert Randolph and The Family Band
Story and photos by Matt SchwenkePlaying to a large contingent of rabid Badgers, Rose Hill Drive lit a fire at the Union Theater on UW Madison's campus, and Robert Randolph and The Family Band stepped in to fan the flames throughout the building and out the doors.
Rose Hill Drive, a three-piece rock outfit from Colorado, have been rising up on the touring scene since their two-show performance at the 10,000 Lakes Festival last summer. As their classic rock sound has been creating a buzz across the country, Rose Hill Drive continues to embody American rock 'n' roll with their no-frills attitude on rocking your socks off. Headed by the powerful and often screaming voice of Jake Sproul, Daniel Sproul tore up some amazing guitar solos (under his mop of hair that completely hides his face and upper body) while drummer Nate Barnes dropped some Gonzo-like drum beats-- heavy on the bass drum and commanding with the snare (...and, yes, I am referring to John Bonham).
Followed up with the warm southern slide jams of Robert Randolph and The Family Band, the duo gave Madison an impressive show. Starting off the set with a smokin' "Nobody" from the new album Unclassified , Robert Randolph pulled fire from the thirteen strings of his pedal steel pausing only to look over his shoulder and signal the changes, which the rest of the band had no problem following on any instrument. Doing an impressive job of playing musical chairs, Randolph changed seats with cousin and drummer Marcus Randolph. Then before returning to his seat, Randolph traded the drums for the bass and the song never lost a step. Wiping the sweat from his face after the great opening, Randolph said, "This next song has a dance that make you feel so good inside." Getting the crowd to do a little shuffle and shake, Randolph went back and forth with organist Jason Crosby on the Hammond B-3 during the more laid back "The March," and the crowd seemed to collectively smile. While Robert Randolph held his own with the vocals, bassist Danyel Morgan displayed some amazing control over his voice in the funky "Press On" that featured Randolph loosely mending the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Carlos Santana together on the pedal steel (...and, yes, I am putting Randolph on the same level as the aforementioned guitarists). What followed was a bluesy number in which Randolph called out for some Badger girls to join him on stage. Conceding that he knew the crowd wasn't used to this, Randolph convinced some thirty dancing females from the crowd to fill the stage for the song (ahhh... the power of music). After the ladies left the stage, Sprawl of Rose Hill Drive joined the group to help in another uncommon act-- letting three different fans jam on stage.
After three solos from some lucky guitarists who will surely be the talk of their respective dormitories, Randolph and Sprawl took back the reigns and slammed out a version of Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times" and Jimi's "Purple Haze." A refreshing night of music and musicianship-- Wow!.
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