Ripe finally made their long-anticipated appearance at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall on Saturday night after being forced to cancel on January 30th due to cold. The dangerous temps and wind chills during the arctic outbreak of January 27-31, 2019 forced schools to be closed for four days and even the University of Minnesota cancelled classes. The low of -28 degrees F and high of -13 degrees F on January 30th was the coldest in the Twin Cities since 1996. Even scarier were the wind chills on the night of that cancelled show which remained below -50 degrees F for 12 straight hours starting at 7pm that night. The -55 degrees F wind chill at 11pm (when the concert would have ended) was the coldest wind chill reading in the Twin Cities since 1985. I guess what I’m saying is if you had tickets for that show like me, you were probably OK with them cancelling the show. While the 32 degrees F might have felt a bit chilly walking to the venue tonight, it was 60 degrees warmer than that bitter cold Wednesday that we traded for a Saturday night. Plus we gained a top-notch opening act in Castlecomer.
Entering an already full Amsterdam Bar in plenty of time for Castlecomer’s enjoyable set, I learned the Australian band is comprised of four Kennedy cousins and a friend. They named their band after the small coal mining town of Castlecomer, Ireland, the home of their ancestors. Perhaps that’s why frontman, Bede (pronounced “bead”) Kennedy physically resembles Bono (or maybe it’s the cool red glasses). However, he has much more personality, wit, and charm than U2’s frontman. Bede said they were glad to be back at the Amsterdam for the second time in nine months (on a balmy February 23rd I’m sure) and that they were big Timberwolves fans and were planning to go to this Monday’s game against the Bucks. After the show Bede explained that he started following the NBA six years ago and was used to rooting for their last place soccer team. So, he looked at the NBA standings and picked the team with the worst record. The Timberwolves were his team.
Being very upfront, the singer-songwriter said they would play eight songs in 40 minutes to get us revved up for the greatest band in America, Ripe. He also quickly addressed the elephant in the room, explaining that Castlecomer is normally a five-piece band (4 cousins plus 1 friend = 5). “Our guitar player, Tommy, usually stands right here,” he pointed out. He told us Tommy was making himself a smoothie and got his pinkie finger in the blender. “It’s a disaster for us. Had to deal with medical insurance claims. Plus he’s the sexy one, so unfortunately, ladies, you will have to look at us tonight.” The band would also have to perform without guitar, which is an essential part of their pop-rock sound. Having some fun with this, Bede played the air guitar and passed it to someone in the crowd during the obvious silence that would have been a guitar solo. He then demanded he give it back. The other Kennedys are Joe on bass (with hair even more impressive than Bede’s) and Patch on drums. Joe Neely is their friend and keyboardist.
Bede is also a scientist or statistician of sorts, telling us that we should be excited that it is Saturday night,since there is one day of the week that has the highest chance of intercourse. You guessed it, Saturday! So he asked us to celebrate this with the band doing a simple line dance to their song “Move”. After playing a “new song” he introduced “All Of The Noise”, telling us in his Aussie accent, “This is a banger we made into a little less of a banger. It works better without guitar. So if you got sweaty moving with us, you are now going to get cold-sweaty. But do you want to sing along?” “All my friends and all your friends and all of the noise,” is how it goes.
He would also have us sing along to “Judy” after pointing out Barb Johnson who he said was their first fan in America. The sing-along part on this one goes “Ah uh ah uh ah uh uh,” and the crowd really had fun with it. “No more gigs off! If you have three fingers you play,” Bede joked. The crowd roared when Bede began playing the cowbell in the next song. “This is our fourth gig in four day. On the first day, the band gave me the cowbell on the first song and I played it all show. So each day they’ve been taking it away earlier so just 10 seconds of cowbell for the good people of Minneapolis.”
Of course, Castlecomer would have to play the song that put them on the map, “Fire Alarm”, and when the crowd started clapping, Bede said, “Guys, the cowbell is coming back out!” During the energetic “Apes”, fans began swaying their hands and saying “Aye, Oh, Aye, Oh,” and Bede liked it so much he had Patch cough up his phone and took some video, saying, “I’m going to send it to mom. She’s going to lose her shit. Mama’s going to dig this for sure back in Sydney.” Here it is on their Facebook page.
Telling us to “Make Love Make Music”, he also told us it would be their final song. “Just wait, Ripe will show you what Saturday night sex is all about.” During this finale, he said they had one more trick. He had everyone get down low, and made sure of it. Then had everyone spring up and dance. Bede also ran in place in exaggerated fashion continuing to display the magnetism that is sure to keep Castlecomer on an upward path to even bigger and better things.
Next up was the headliner, Boston’s ever-popular, Ripe. When their crew set-up personal fans and placed towels in front of each musician’s spot, you knew it was going to be a high-energy set. Security also put the crowd barrier in place a few feet from the front of the stage, anticipating some crowd interaction. This seven-piece dance machine, complete with trumpet and trombone, formed through the Berklee College of Music, which they all attended. Taking the stage to a recorded discussion of the definition of courage, they showed no fear as they opened with “Talk to the Moon” from their second EP Hey Hello. Ripe’s irresistible mix of rock/funk/R&B/jazz which has gained them a nationwide reputation for their energetic live shows. Tonight was no exception, as the Amsterdam was moving and grooving right from the opening song. Perhaps that January cold spell could have been diffused earlier had Ripe worked up the same body heat in St. Paul as they did tonight.
Singer Robbie Wulfsohn is their likeable frontman and the rest of the band is comprised of Tory Giesmar and Jon Becker on guitars, Nadav Shapira on bass, Sampson Hellerman on drums, Josh Shpak on trumpet, and Calvin Barthel on trombone. They somehow found enough room for all of them on the less-than-huge stage as I’m sure they’ve had to make even smaller stages work. They continued with a two originals from their full-length album Joy In The Wild Unknown, the peppy “Little Lighter” and the clever “Passerby” with their impressive horn parts. Shpak set down his trumpet to lead the crowd with some clapping. The horn players would also play various percussion instruments during the set and appeared to enjoy doing so. Besides playing their own songs, the band is known for some of the cover tunes they play, but in their own style. Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” was one they knocked out of the park tonight. This universal hit even had attendees unfamiliar with Ripe singing along.
Wulfsohn told us, “We’ve tried to play here so many times and there is always a blizzard. But not tonight!” “I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up after missing it twice in a row, so my adrenaline is high after seeing so many here. Or maybe it’s my Five Watt coffee (giving a shout out to the local coffee shop)?” Next, telling the crowd they are going to play a new song, the singer teased, “If you don’t like it, the show is over. Just kidding.” To be honest they could have played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and this crowd would have ate it up. Tonight they would digest a handful of other songs from Joy In The Wild Unknown, including “Ex-Life”, “Beta Male”, “Downward”, and show-capper “Flipside.”
Fans would also fill their appetite for earlier hits such as “Ladies Night”, “Pretty Dirty (In the Fading Light)”, and of course fan-favorite “Goon Squad”. Plus, their most popular cover, The Kinks’ “Lola”, which is tough to beat. Overall, they would feast on the cohesive group’s non-stop groove that turned the Amsterdam Bar into the place to be on this Saturday “sex night” versus that Wednesday “frostbite night”.
Talk To The Moon/Little Lighter/Passerby/Don’t Stop/5am/Ladies Night/Ex-Life/Text You First/Beta Male/First Time Feeling/Goon Squad/Downward/Pretty Dirty (In the Fading Light).