I have a few of those “I saw that band before they were famous” stories that people are fond of telling once ‘that band’ becomes famous. Unfortunately and inexplicably these bands were Limp Bizkit and Creed (these are the ones I will cop to!). This sad trend ends with Redwood Stills because these guys are really, really good.
Redwood Stills’ sound is hard to describe. Sure, they’re a rock band, nothing too heavy and nothing too soft either, but that is a pigeonhole and wholly unfair. I recently got to see them play a jam-packed house at ‘The House of Blues’ on Sunset Boulevard and I spent their entire set tapping my feet and moving in a way that might have suggested dance to a person with rhythm (something I do not have, I haven’t danced since my wedding).
Meanwhile I was trying to, much like I would with a film or a television show, to make that comparison, the ‘Blank meets Blank’ comparison that simplistically breaks down a piece of art into two other previously crafted pieces of art (i.e., The Dark Knight is like Batman meets Heat). I was having a very hard time with this, mostly because how their sound changes not just from song to song, but even within the songs.
So I am going to list a few bands that Redwood Stills is NOT like.
1. Redwood Stills is nothing like Nickelback with the exception of the white guys. The former can write lyrics and lead guitarist Ronnie McCawley can play more than four chords. The latter can do neither.
2. Redwood Stills is nothing like Creed. Lead singer Ben Uhrig, despite being a soft-spoken guy, has a set of pipes on him that does not sound as if he has Stapp knows what stuck in his mouth.
3. Redwood Stills is nothing like any other amalgamation of those shallow indistinguishable retreads that one sees and hears on the radio. Too many to list.
Seeing the band perform on stage, I had to remind myself that although the band has been active since 2011 (and has about 40-50 shows under their belt) their current formation have not been together very long- a fact that their comradeship and rhythm belied. They are storytellers, and very good ones thanks to strong poetic lyrics inlayed with soothing and sometimes haunting guitars and rhythm.
Each member has their part to play, and it seems no movement is wasted. Ronnie McCawley’s physical stage presence reminded me (here comes that comparison) of Angus Young meets Ian McKay; I especially enjoyed the guitar on ‘Shine,’ which was very appropriate to the venue. Ben Uhrig’s powerful voice sounds operatic at times, and makes me think of (gulp!) Jim Morrison. Lofty comparison I know, and of course Ben is no Lizard King, but after listening to how he tells a story, especially within a well-written song like ‘Rockin’ Chair,’ that is who I hear. Benny Romzak (bass) was hysterical. His stage antics kept the lively crowd happy between songs. Honestly, I did not pay much attention to the rhythm section for the simple fact that I did not have to. Had I noticed them it would have only been because of a lack of synchronicity and/or poor playing. So kudos also go to Reid Cunningham on drums and Seth Gordon rockin’ the keyboard and Mandolin. Again, I was very impressed at how comfortable these guys were playing together with the current formation being relatively new- Benny, Reid, and Seth only joining the band or replacing former members to unite with Ronnie and Ben more recently.
Redwood Stills is certainly more than on their way. My suggestion to any music lover out there is to get in now while the bandwagon is just gassing up. They play all over Los Angeles, so there is really no excuse to not get yourself a ticket to one and have the aforementioned ‘I saw them before they were famous’ stories.
Redwood Stills is playing The SXSW Music Festival in Austin Texas next month. Also look out for ‘Redwood Stills: The Pete and Scotch Sessions’ to be released in March just before SXSW. If you wish to listen to or purchase some of their music, or get tickets to their next show visit RedwoodStills.com