The Rooks Bring New Blood to Old Soul at NYC’s Mercury Lounge CONCERT RECAP by Kerika Fields [VIDEO]

By Kerika Fields

On Saturday September 27, 2014 The Rooks took the stage at NYC’s Mercury Lounge and did the almost impossible: They convinced this cynic that the next generation of musicians is keeping good, pure soul music alive, one song at a time.

With Garth Taylor slaying songs on vocals, Gabe Gordon killing it on keys, Louis Russo grooving on bass, Graham Richman getting down on guitar, Spencer Hattendorf doing some backup singing and slaying the sax, and Nate Mondschein doing the damn thing on the drums, The Rooks showed and proved that listening to their mom and dad’s records have really rubbed off.

Prior to their performance I had a chance to speak to some of the band mates about their sound and ultimately, their influences. The guys, who met while still studying at Weslyan, immediately began calling out names like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Laylah Hathaway, too.

“The Motown greats!” bassist Louis Russo offered, adding “James Jamerson for me, as a bass player.” Guitarist Graham Richman, who comes more from the indie side of music than the others, threw out bands like Radiohead and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. “And JDilla’s backbeats find their way into our shows, ” volunteered lead singer Garth Taylor, referring to the influences of The Rooks’ own drummer Nate Modsheim.

Of their many influences, the sextet’s main one is the most obvious: “The Roots have made space for themselves to grow and change, which is very impressive since a lot of bands have a short window. Not a lot of bands have longevity and we admire their progression, the way they’ve stuck together,” admitted keyboardist Gabe Gordon, before joking that “We like to think we get a lot of interested people coming to our shows who read the name wrong and think they are coming to see The Roots.”

All jokes aside, these musicians take their music very seriously as was evident in their show on Saturday. Performing original songs ( “Bury Me Deep”, “Willow”, and their recently released single “Secrets”) and a few covers (Disclosure’s “Latch” Feat. Sam Smith and Usher’s “Climax”), the band took an authentic approach to their performance. It was very refreshing to witness, especially since many of today’s artists feel they need to play a game or have a gimmick to steal a show. Not The Rooks. There were no feather boas, wide brimmed hats, high heeled boots or backup singers. Graham Richman even played the entire set without shoes or socks! The band’s down to earth, bare bones approach is actually what makes them engrossing and their pull was not lost on the crowd, some of whom knew the words to many of their songs and sang along, eagerly. Others in the audience just stood and watched, mouth agape, in awe.

Much of the group’s awe-inspiring effects can be attributed to lead singer Garth Taylor. In his vocals I heard Maxwell, D’Angelo, Omar, Sam Cooke and even some Sylvester. In his performance I saw the band’s bright future. With confidence and clarity he let his voice do what it does, which is a lot, all good, and very powerful. I even got goose bumps, and I don’t get goose bumps! The young performer says he used to get a little nervous a week before a show, but now, since he’s been playing in New York, the Maryland native has figured out the best way to pre-show jitters: ”I’m numb, then like five minutes before a show, I’m like, ok! We have to do a show now? Ok! Boom! ”

Boom, indeed.

 

The Rooks will be at Piano’s on October 11th, the CMJ Music Marathon ( October 12th; October 21-25) and is currently working on a EP called “Wires” which is due to drop next year.

Check them out at www.therooksband.com

Here is some of the video footage from the show.  Enjoy:

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