Arts concert review

The time is ripe for good music

Boston-based band returns to hometown

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Boston-based band Ripe performs for an excited crowd at the House of Blues Feb. 15.

House of Blues Boston
Feb. 14–15, 2020

Seven-man band Ripe held the musical equivalent of a homecoming game over the weekend. The group formed when a collection of Berklee students began making music together and has been gaining a following ever since, playing at several music festivals. To raise the hype for their upcoming EP, Little Less Polite, Ripe is embarking on a tour across the country. Back in Boston where they started, the group performed at two back-to-back sold out shows at the House of Blues.

The New Respects opened the night on a high note, and not in the musical sense. The vocalist and two guitarists could just as well have formed a three-girl dance group, performing choreographed moves that accentuated their music as they played. With the guitars, the band took on a somewhat rock sound, which was confirmed by their incredible cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Yet, the lead singer’s voice was smooth as butter, deep and full in the style of R&B. All of their music was rhythmic, made possible by the drummer, who I felt didn’t receive enough of the spotlight as a full-fledged member of the band. Some songs were more fast-paced and fun, some more relaxed and sensual. At a few points, the singing slipped into a bit of rapping. Meanwhile, the guitarists refined the songs with pretty harmonies and back-up vocals. During the act, I felt like I was witnessing a modern revival of legendary R&B groups from the 90s and early 2000s like TLC.

The New Respects’ performance was full of positive energy. Their sound radiated confidence, swagger, and empowerment. The crowd, whom the lead singer called her “best friends,” was constantly dancing, and during their song “Hands Up,” it seemed like every person in their venue was waving their arms in the air.

Ripe followed the New Respects’ impressive act with their own musical talent. It’s hard to narrow down Ripe’s music to one genre. If I had to choose, I would say the band is along the lines of pop rock or alternative. Many of the songs featured a rather slow buildup and release to an energetic chorus or instrumental that I can best describe as “bouncy.” The beats were perfect to move and clap along to. The vocalist’s rich voice, which seemed to be the major focus of the songs, drew me in and made me want to sing along too. During the faster parts of songs, he often sang staccato with short quick breaks between words, almost as if he was calling out rather than singing the lyrics.

Aside from the usual guitar, drums, and keyboard, some of the instruments used between the seven band members included the trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and tambourine. Though they were subtle for the most part, these instruments gave Ripe’s music a slight jazzy quality that not a lot of rock bands have. In the occasional moment that they were allowed to shine, they completely transformed the music.

Having a good time was at the top of Ripe’s agenda. The vocalist danced with eccentric movements ranging from jump kicks to head banging. With quite a bit of free time between their parts, the trumpet and trombone players took on new roles as hype men. And though it seemed to take them some time to warm up, by the end of the concert, the rest of the band members were also moving around the stage as if at a party. Ripe also brought the New Respects back onstage to help them for one song, and they playfully challenged the audience to recognize the song as soon as possible before launching into a cover of the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.” They interspersed their own songs with a number of other covers just for fun, including songs by Beyonce and Maroon 5 and even a spot-on reproduction of The Who’s “Who Are You,” dedicated to “all the people whose parents watch way too much CSI.”

The crowd had just as much fun as the band members. Early in the show the lead singer asked for a cheer from the people who had attended both shows, and the resulting uproar was a testament to the band’s passionate fans. Green bandanas, apparently an emblem of the band, eventually shifted from being worn on heads to being waved or thrown in the air in response to the music. Even after an encore, the audience spontaneously erupted in a chant of the White Stripes’ famous riff from “Seven Nation Army,” until the band returned to the stage for a second time.

At the time of the concert, I struggled to put my finger on the exact quality that I noticed pervaded every single one of Ripe’s songs. Since then I’ve found the word I was looking for: victorious. The fast paced, congratulatory trumpets, and cheer-like vocals evoked a feeling of celebrating an accomplishment. Listening to their music made me feel like I’d been inserted at the end of a cheesy movie, where everything works out and the characters dance until the credits roll. The more serious songs sounded perfect for confidently strutting down the street to the pounding drums. Even the rainbow lights and brightly colored poster of Ripe’s band name behind the set matched the cheerful atmosphere. The icing on the cake occurred near the end of the show, when bright white lights hit the disco ball on the ceiling of the House of Blues and covered the venue in slowly rotating flecks of light almost as if someone had released white confetti into the crowd.

Ripe’s lead vocalist could not stop expressing his gratitude to the city of Boston. These shows were quite a warm “welcome home” for the growing band. Everything from the New Respects’ opener to the enthusiasm of the crowd filled the night with an exuberant energy. With their triumphant and optimistic sound, Ripe amplified this energy exponentially