The Rosebuds played a vibrant set to a packed Boot & Saddle
The Rosebuds | Photo by Chris Sikich |

We all have bands we love that we wish would make it big. Among mine are The Rosebuds. They certainly have found success, as Merge signed them back in 2003 and they have worked with big-name collaborators like Justin Vernon. The well-attended Boot & Saddle show on Thursday night showed a demand for their indie-pop aesthetics. But at the end of the day they should at the very least entertain a full house at Union Transfer. Why? Harmonies, percussion, keys and strings floating between early ‘60s rock, Hall and Oates and the dance floor make them a unique, creative force that exists in a class of its own.

Ivan Howard, with his newsboy cap and rich vocals, and Kelly Crisp, front-and-center on keyboards with sweet harmonies at the ready, were a joy to watch. The one-time married couple are completely in-synch musically, leading The Rosebuds current line-up. Among the mix were drummer Rob Lackey, guitarist Brian Weeks and bassist and back-up vocalist Mark Paulson.

The setlist spanned the band’s career. “Back to Boston,” the first track on their debut LP Make Out sounded vibrant and they even dropped Philadelphia into the lyrics. The propulsive harmonies and guitar on “Boxcar” from their masterpiece Birds Make Good Neighbors were as fresh as they were in 2005.

Sand + Silence recalls the mix of the rock identities of the past and is their most satisfying record made in the interim. And the new tracks do not disappoint live. The album’s first cut “In My Teeth” feels like a brilliant lost track from the ‘70s. And one could sense a dance-off could result during “Esse Quam Videri” with its chorus that the crowd happily “oohed” and “ahhed,” sounding like something Gloria Estefan could only dream of producing. Of course these songs were not surprising to those fans of The Rosebuds’ Night of the Furies or their Sade covers. The poppy “Blue Eyes” showcased Howard and Crisp’s early rock sensibilities with the catchy “swimming in the blue eyes” transporting the Philly crowd to a modern Beach Boys’ concert.

With the 11 p.m. curfew nearing, The Rosebuds closed with one of their brilliant parables in “Nice Fox.” A lush, haunting track, the crowd happily sang its chorus of “and it don’t mean nothing at all.” Crisp went into the crowd and Howard orchestrated the gorgeous refrain to end the evening. For all those in attendance The Rosebuds surely do mean something and will continue to have meaning deep into the band’s hopefully fertile future.

Solo artist Jesse Marchant opened with his glorious guitar playing, sometimes simultaneously mixed with drumming, and brooding lyrics.

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