Ripe is at a sweet spot.
It’s the sweet spot of being popular enough to sell out The Independent, a venue on the opposite coast from where the band started, but new enough to still hang out with the audience before the show, watch the openers perform and soundcheck their own equipment. Not just to soundcheck, either, but to perform a full dick-around session of John Mayer tunes on stage.
That’s not to say that the surprise walk-on bands generally attempt to incite was totally lost, since between soundcheck and performance, all seven band members had changed into distinctively patterned RompHims.
It was a bold move for a band on its first national headlining tour, and both the fashion choice and the music stuck the landing.
Having seven people in a band is generally accompanied by a tradeoff in which, for a fuller, richer sound, several band members are relegated to the recesses of a stage setup. Ripe interrogated this principle directly, lining a trombonist (Calvin Barthel), trumpet player (Josh Shpak), two guitarists (Tory Geismar and Jon Becker) and lead singer Robbie Wulfsohn all along the front of the stage. Unlike many shows which feature brass, Barthel and Shpak were each equipped with clip-on wireless mics rather than stands — allowing them to join the jumping, stage-crossing revelries. How they maintained their breath is another question.
A few weeks ago, the band released its debut LP, Joy in the Wild Unknown. And yet, it seemed as if the entire audience had managed to learn every lyric off it in the intervening 20 days. That, along with the friendly pre- and post-show atmospheres, gave the show a distinctly “family” vibe. This was probably helped by the fact that several band members had family members and friends in the audience — Barthel, for example, hails from Albany, CA. People seemed to know each other, know the band, and be absolutely willing to go all-in with their dancing and cheering — occasionally holding up the show with sustained applause as the band members tried to mentally digest the fact that they’d really made it.
It’s always hard to pin down what makes a show one that will truly stick with you. Beyond fun, funky music, a band has to do something that establishes a human connection. For Ripe, that thing was smiling — all seven members had huge grins plastered across their faces throughout the show, an authentic expression that fed joy back into the audience. In a previous interview with The Daily Californian, Wulfsohn said, “We are actively trying to sound like we can’t be contained by the rooms we are playing,” and that they did.
Part of that comes from their musical style — groovy, funky, bass- and brass-heavy rock-inflected smorgasbords of infectious sound. But part of it is also the musical acumen of the band members, who met as students at the Berklee College of Music, first meeting at parties, and then playing at some of those parties before expanding into the greater Boston area.
Whether it was shimmying his shoulders and dancing, interacting with the other band members onstage or reaching into the crowd to shake hands and bump fists, Wulfsohn served as a dynamic, humorous center to the show. “We didn’t write this next song,” he said before the band played one of the few covers of the night. “But if you like it, then we definitely wrote it. We’re shameless.” Beyond two full covers, the band also wove some popular songs’ lyrics into instrumental sections of its own songs, most notably at the concert’s finale, which ended with “All Star,” by Smash Mouth.
The band members weren’t offstage for more than 10 seconds before the chanting to bring them back started — for an encore, the band chose “Pedro,” shouting it out as one of the bandmates’ mom’s favorite song (she was working the merch stand). And after the show was done, headliners mixed with openers and audience members in and around the merch tables, sharing hugs and photos and autographs. In short, it was a local, up-and-coming-band vibe mixed with the performance style of a well-established band with a well-established fanbase.
What more could you want than that?