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Rosali + Verity Den - The Rockwell (Somerville, MA) - April 11, 2024

16 April 2024

After three records released on various small labels, including her debut on the illustrious Siltbreeze label, Philadelphia-born Rosali Middleman built up enough momentum to catch the attention of Merge Records. A few months ago, Bite Down was released, its polarizing album cover hard to ignore.

I first caught her as a duo with Emily Robb when they opened for Hiss Golden Messenger and then a year later Dan Bejar tapped her and her full band as support for the Destroyer tour. Bejar lent some kind words on the hype sticker on the new record, and even a cursory listen reveals her deep talent as a songwriter. Unsurprisingly, the new record was the showcase for the evening, an economical dozen songs that also sprinkled in four from her previous record, No Medium.

Crammed onto the tiny stage of the Rockwell, Rosali had to lift her guitar neck up every time she swiveled around to corral the band’s energy. Anyone who’s a fan of Neil Young is familiar with “the lurch,” that moment when Shakey summons the power of the quartet and between physical movements and some sort of wizard telepathy, moves the unit into one unstoppable force.

David Nance is a pretty fucking good guitarist in his own right (and when fronting his own self-named band) but was nestled tightly in the pocket while playing bass; James Schroeder played his hollow body Epiphone like it was an extension of his arms and brain, instinctively weaving in and out, bringing dynamic peaks and scaling back when he needed to. The secret sauce was drummer Kevin Donahue (also a member of Nance’s band along with Schroeder), who had enough swing like Charlie Watts but could also bludgeon the kit like Bonzo as needed.

The new record doesn’t have quite as many of those simmer-to-boil-over moments, yielding instead to Rosali’s tempered song writing; “Bite Down” burbles along like a sparkling brook, and “My Kind” evokes a bit of SoCal-era Fleetwood Mac. Set closer “Bones” was when the teeth were bared, all four members bearing down and wringing the remaining energy from their instruments.

Rosali has recently relocated to North Carolina so perhaps it was no coincidence that Carrboro-based Verity Den hopped on as tour support for a few shows. The guitarists Mike Wallace and Trevor Reece were both part of Drag Sounds. The quartet was one of the better unknown bands I’ve seen this year, and while there were definitely some strong influences woven throughout their sound (Feelies, ’90s US shoegaze without slavish pedal worship, Television Personalities, Hospitality, Yo La Tengo, etc) they had their own definitive stamp on their sound. One to watch.