There was an unusual calm as I stepped into the Mainstay Rock Bar in downtown Cincinnati on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day. Expecting a loud and rowdy crowd, I was greeted with relatively quiet groups of people hanging around the bar, with bands slowly moving their equipment up to the stage. If I may use a rather cliché phrase, it was the calm before the storm. I did arrive an hour early after all. Within the next hour or so the bar was filled with college students and twenty-somethings, all clad in green and full of energy.
What brought me down to Cincinnati that evening wasn’t the bar (which is a blasphemy to some on this holiday), but the music. A trio of bands were to be putting on a show for the soon-to-be arriving crowd. One of these bands came out from Dayton to help that crowd release their pent-up holiday energy: Red Hot Rebellion.
Taking the stage in kilts, Red Hot Rebellion played the music that bassist and lead vocalist Jim Tramontana described to me as “the soundtrack to a bar fight.” Thankfully none of those broke out, but it’s easy to see where they’re coming from with that description. The band’s whole style and persona is loud, crazy, and fun, which is just perfect for a night like that. A hard-edged, driving rock sound with numerous guitar solos, three-way vocals, and lyrics that cover such topics as drinking and fighting (which Tramontana said are popular subjects with the college crowd). If I had to put these guys into a genre, I would say that this is what the phrase “party rock” should refer to, rather than that electronic hip-hop LMFAO music that comes to most people’s minds with that phrase.
Another key with Red Hot Rebellion’s performance was humor and crowd interaction, which is something that I do not see often with local acts for some reason. These guys weren’t just here to play
their music; they wanted to have a good time and make sure the crowd was as well. Starting with jokes between sets and ending with guitarist Doug Spencer playing in his underwear, the band definitely accomplished that goal.
The band’s hour-long set finished a bit after midnight or so, leaving everyone’s ears ringing from the sound assault. The night wasn’t quite over yet, as Red Hot Rebellion was second on the bill of three. Also playing on that evening were Rumble Club, a rockabilly band out of Covington, Kentucky, and Switchblade Syndicate, a rock/punk act right out of Cincinnati. All together, the bands created a diverse lineup perfect for the party atmosphere of St. Patrick’s Day. Red Hot Rebellion brought the party down from Dayton, though, and showed that even outside the big city, we know how to have a good time.