The Redlight District (photo: Joshua Huver)
The Boom Boom Room has a long and storied history within the city limits of San Francisco, and for a pair of fledgling rock and roll bands steeped heavy in the blues, it is an honor to perform.
Last Wednesday was the fourth and final night of a Boom Boom Room residency for the Santa Cruz-based quartet known as The Redlight District. They showcased a different opening act each show, and, on March 1, welcomed Santa Rosa natives Kingsborough to kick the night off heavy.
Kingsborough took the stage shortly after 9PM and treated the audience to a number of cover songs with plenty of original material in between. Lead singer Billy Kingsborough has the animation of a live wire–as he snaps back and forth across the stage, his entire body recoils and extends, projecting everything he’s got into the audience.
Original songs such as “No More” and “County Line” are steeped in that classic rock crunch and unchained vocal abandon that turns heads. It’s no surprise that they were once hand picked to open a show for Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Check out their performance of “No More” below.
Kingsborough is a band with a deep rock and roll fire and each member has the chops to keep up. They played about 13 songs in just over an hour, and they only seemed to increase their feverish playing as time went on.
By the time The Redlight District took the stage, the crowd had filled the venue and imbibed in several Redlight District Bombs – a special drink involving tequila and Corona offered to aid in celebrating each of their residency shows. Loosening up the crowd was instrumental as they opened with “Dirty Old Joe Brown.” The song opens with frontman Stephan Sams immediately breaking the wall between the audience and the sage, stepping into the crowd and teaching them how to hum a little tune, ending with a clap.
“Keep that going to the end, you guys,” Sams said, as he went into Joe Brown’s blues. Eventually, the harmonica laden wail segued into one of the band’s signature tunes, “What’s My Name?” Watch the whole thing below:
The heavy rock and roll vibe continued with “HWY.” Songs like “So Far Away” and “I Need Someone” didn’t necessarily slow things down, but they brought to light a jazzier and more carefully constructed side of the band’s rowdy psychedelic rock and roll show.
Sams will often wander out into the crowd, climbing on the bar, to let out a fierce vocal melody while guitarist Ravi Lamb, keyboardist Dan Leitner and drummer Keoki Thompson lock into eerie harmony.
One could juxtapose The Redlight District with their heavy, psychedelic predecessors throughout the ages, but what these four guys bring to the table is totally unique and entirely captivating. While Sams carries his weight as the front man, they make sure to give every member an opportunity to shine in their own light.
It’s also easy to isolate the group’s different sounds and focus on the instrument of your choice, but when three of the four stop playing, kneel to the floor and give an entire minute or more to one player, it becomes obvious that these guys are not only capable of holding a crowd’s attention, but they have a brotherly respect for each other and their showmanship.
The first set contained a cover of the old blues standard “Back Door Man” in the key of Jim Morrison as well as several new tracks that the band has been working on since their latest EP One Hour Motel was recorded and released last year. The first set ended with a brief yet detailed tale of poetry that bled into “Red Wine On The Window Sill,” just in time for a second happy hour that started at midnight.
Fifteen minutes after their 11 song first set, the quartet returned to the stage for another 13 songs, pushing 2AM on a Thursday morning before they had wrapped. If you could consider the first half of the show mellow with a jazzier tint, the second half of the show was unbridled rock and roll that only let up to set the audience down gently at the end.
Fan favorites like “Burn It Down,” “Murder On My Mind” and “Ride” punctuated the set early along with a handful of newer songs as well. Three covers, “Xxplosive” by Dr. Dre, Nina Simone’s “I Put A Spell On You” and “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson, showed just how diverse the bands’ influences actually are.
Every show they play seems to cull new fans from the sweaty masses of headbangers, shy poets and the politically charged–it doesn’t take more than a few songs to find remaining stationary to the beat of The Redlight District damn near impossible.
Their next show in the Bay Area will be Friday, March 17, as they host an intimate St. Patrick’s Day celebration at The Crepe Place in Santa Cruz.