Last night I was out at The Verb Hotel in the Fenway District of Boston. The venue previously existed as a run-down Howard Johnsons but its dated features were made retro and cool after presumably a lot of money was dumped into it. The pool, now heated, steams outside of the restaurant bar, a colorful space that features dozens of fine Japanese sakes and whiskeys. There is a sizeable space in a corner carved out for live music.
When you search for Boston-based blues rocker, Julie Rhodes, in Google Images you will discover a wall of black-and-white animal portraits – lions, tigers, elephants, german shepherds – and Rhodes’ searching gaze aimed in your direction. It’s a serene display of power and ferocity. When Rhodes’ vocals hit, a similar effect ensues. In her stirring rendition of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” there is more than simple rasp; her tone is deep, full, and erupts in a grating rumble. It’s chill-seeking, soul-searching, heartwarming music.
Rhodes in her felt bowler hat and leather jacket, took to the Verb last night, a pint in one hand and a mic in the other. She was backed by her band (guitar, bass, drums, and keys). I had never seen her live before, but as the beat dropped, Rhodes’ vocals blow me away. The band was like a well-oiled machine, working and jiving off each other; the guitar enhanced and mimicked Rhodes’ melody, the drums and bass kept beat and altered the vibe, and the keys made the crowd say, “Mmmmm.” Folks left their neon-green bar seats to see for themselves what was happening while I danced in place, mesmerized. Everyone seemed to forget about the endless list of premo sake and Japanese action figures lining the walls. For a moment we were all taken by something so undeniably human, an animal instinct that ricocheted through the howls of Julie Rhodes.
Julie Rhodes’ debut full-length record Bound To Meet The Devil is out on all music streaming services, as well as her recent Daytrotter Sessions recordings.
Colin is a close friend who possesses a deep passion for music – he writes for Sound of Boston. Tune in Wednesday night to hear Julie Rhodes and other weekly favorites. The show runs from 8-10, we aim explore new and old tunes and promise to play something that’ll please your ears!