Music Notes: Rock & Soul on a Roll

An unforgettable rock and roll band plays to adoring global audiences as their journey unfolds.  

(photo courtesy Lee Cherry)

, , Ty Tyler and Dill of Vintage Trouble will perform at the Hamilton on September 18. (Photo courtesy Lee Cherry)

Any warm up slot at a rock concert is a challenge and often, a thankless task as people mill around waiting impatiently for the main act. But a relatively new and largely unknown band warming up The Who, at a big arena no less? Sheesh. Unless of course you’re the force of nature that is Vintage Trouble. 

When I saw these four guys bound onstage almost two years ago while waiting for The Who to play “Quadrophenia” at the cavernous Verizon Center, I thought to myself, “Wha-WHAT? A warm up band for The Who? These guys better be really good to crack this crowd at this place.” My buddies nodded in agreement.  Then, Vintage Trouble began to play.

Not only did most of the arena crowd listen, but they danced and shimmied and wildly cheered every song in Vintage Trouble’s short warmup set. Triumphant is an understatement as it was one of the best warm up performances…no, one of the best performances period, of any band I had ever seen. Many in attendance that night, including me, no doubt became “Troublemakers,” the name given to loyal fans of this mesmerizing, raucous, fantastic band of nattily dressed soul hellions who made the absolute most of this huge opportunity,on the spot.

In the two years since that night, Vintage Trouble has rocked and souled all over the globe, while tirelessly touring as both opener and headliner, including playing in front of 100,000 people at Hyde Park in London. They’ve since nailed opening slots for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band and Brian May, consistently wowing crowds with their wholly unique, yet still familiar brand of soul-cum-rock-cum-firebreathing boogie woogie music and passionate sweat-soaked performances. In essence, long tours and great music have helped the band cement themselves as one of the world’s most dynamic, exciting and memorable live acts in rock and roll today, all after releasing only one album, “The Bomb Shelter Sessions in 2011 and a just-dropped EP “The Swing House Acoustic Sessions.” Luckily for local “Troublemakers,” Vintage Trouble returns to play the Hamilton on September 18th.

It’s not lost on this sensational quartet – lead singer , guitarist Nalle Colt, bassist Rick Barrio Dill and drummer Richard Danielson – how stunning an experience it is to play far away lands and to be getting the amazing response they’ve gotten in their short four years in existence, despite only having one and a half albums released.

“Sometimes we get to a place, and we’re not used to this part yet, where we’ve never played there before, and yet everyone knows the songs,” said Taylor, the band’s energetic centerpiece. “We just got finished running around in Spain, and Japan, and you get off this plane in a foreign country, you’ve never been there, and at the shows they’re singing louder than us and dancing harder than we are. It’s just one of those things that for so long in your life, you’ve dreamt of doing something that would make a difference to people, and would radiate beyond what you think your arms’ reach could do. And to see and feel that happening now, it’s a little humbling. But at the same time it makes you feel like you want to put a red cape and run around with a big ‘S’ on your chest.”

Superman would adequately describe Taylor’s extraordinary stage persona, as he’s a whirling dervish of a mix of , , Joe Cocker and, well, himself. It’s hard to keep your eyes off him during a show, as he goes from smooth soul crooner to manic soul shaker at a moment’s notice. Where does this unforgettable “character” come from? It’s a little bit of both nature and nurture.

“When I was growing up, I did a lot of listening to music,” said Taylor. “We didn’t have You Tube and this kind of thing, so we didn’t have the privilege that a lot of people have now where they can study live performance. So I think any persona just came from the feel of the music that I’ve heard in the past. And more importantly, what I do right now I’ve never done before, so I feel like the persona also comes from the connection that all of us [in the band] have. On top of that, any class that comes into my performance comes from my Mom, and anything that’s a little dirtier, and a little more potty-mouthed comes from my Dad. Some of that persona that comes across like a preacher, a cocky kind of activist of some kind, it comes from a need or a desire to have us all amplify what’s inside of us. Because that’s the only way it’s gonna have enough friction to move us out of this still low place that we’re in right now.”

Like many other successful bands, the guys in Vintage Trouble knew right away after they got together in 2010 that they’d found it; that special something that defines longevity and camraderie, which are not automatic commodities in a rock and roll band.

“You’ve been in bands your whole life, and then you meet a buncha guys and you suddenly connect and that makes it work,” said band co-founder Colt. “Vintage Trouble is such an amazing journey. We’re so grateful for being part of this, how it happens, you just never know.”

“We didn’t foresee any of it,” continues Dill. “Of course you want to say you’re gonna join the band and things are gonna go great. But what was cool about it is that it was coming so organically, that we weren’t really projecting like that. We were kind of just projecting in the moment and in the now, and that was the strength that we got that was making us able to surge ahead with this future that we’re in now. We’re just trying to stay honest with each other, and to the music we are trying to play. And everything that happens after that, really just kinda happens.”

After we saw that stunning set as The Who warm up in 2012, we went out to get a beer on the concourse and there was Vintage Trouble, shaking hands, backslapping and posing for pictures, an unusual sight for a rock band. They can thank themselves, that genuine openness and ongoing interaction with fans for the rabid nature and loyalty of their current fan base, who relentlessly use social media and online networking to spread the word to try and recruit more “Troublemakers” worldwide. And by all accounts, it’s working.

“The ‘Troublemakers’ kinda found themselves,” said Colt, “and it’s so cool to see how it’s been growing to a worldwide kinda thing. We got a lot of help in the beginning [from the online community] and it just works. And now, we have a personal relationship with people all around the world, and there’s something really joyous about it. Like you say, the grass roots kinda thing, it’s something that we all appreciate and we’re super excited that it happened this way. It’s hard to explain, it’s just there.  And we really try to nurse it ‘cuz it’s important to us and it’s personal to us. We got a chance to play music every day, and that means so much, that the ‘Troublemakers’ are supportive.”

For Vintage Trouble, it’s all about the music. They play wherever they can in any arena, stadium or club in order to embrace this incredible journey, all the while feeding off gleeful and appreciative audiences and their surroundings.

“You can play an arena or a club, and then there are the things in between,” said Taylor. “Like, maybe you pull out a bass drum and play by the water, or when you’re in the subway station you grab a guitar, or you can play in church and feel closer to God, or you can play at a whorehouse. For us, we want to play anywhere and everywhere, because everywhere needs music.”

Vintage Trouble performs Sept 18th at The Hamilton,  600 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005. For tickets, click here

writes about local and national music luminaries for WashingtonLife.com and his own blog at midliferocker.wordpress.com. He is also lead singer for the successful Northern Virginia classic rock cover band Second Wind

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