The Goon Squad: Ripe Make Their Debut at The Capitol Theatre

They played moe.down this past summer, they opened for J.J Grey and Mofro at NYC’s PlayStation Theatre, they released an EP—Ripe, a relatively still new six-piece pop-funk outfit from the Boston Berkley scene, has had a year of accomplishments. This weekend was another notch, when they made a terrific debut at The Capitol Theatre on Saturday, December 16. With a couple of guest bands joining, it revealed itself over its course of the evening as a really special kind of show.

One of these guests were Juice, a fellow Boston group of a similar musical flavor. The pairing of these two bands was perfect, as it made for a full night of uniformly bright personality and musical zest.

Juice channeled the finessed pizazz of a Broadway production. But their material was a  mix of R&B and pop rock, that also radiated an extremely positive mood from the start. Among other strengths, like their charismatic electric violinist Christian Rose, Juice have a real vocal power going for them—something becoming less of a rarity for jam scene acts than it’s been in the past. Most of the material of their set featured at least a couple members either harmonizing or rapping improvised bars.

If you can believe it,  the band’s banger for the night, and a topper for the entire evening, was a take on Kanye’s “Gold Digger.” It didn’t sound like such at first, but the band put a Little Feat-inspired, piano-touched funky groove behind the song that made it surprisingly heady and listenable. They finished out very strongly, with a song that they announced would be on an upcoming album: a tune that revolves around a great, gospel-inspired chorus of “Mercy, mercy.” It actually echoed the sound and feel of the more soaring section of Tedeschi Trucks Band number.

As they started out, Ripe introduced a similar yet also unique brand of this positive-funk  Now it was something like a modern, more revamp of 80s dance pop. It also got slightly groovier in tandem with its building—as Ripe would reveal over the course of the night, they were good at taking things up from an already good level to an even higher one. By the third song into their set—which now was delivering a sound that fused The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stevie Wonder, they’d tapped into a huge momentum already.

Robbie Wulfsohn, Ripe’s almost dizzingly enthusiastic lead singer, had enough personality for everybody in the theatre, but there was the “it” kind of talent to back it up. To his band’s suave yet hard-pushing grooves, he stood out still as a strong point, with a far-reaching, soulful, youthful voice that didn’t let up as the night went on.

“This is crazy,” he was panting to the crowd halfway through the set. He was no doubt addressing the surreality of the night, the fact that his still very much up and coming Boston band of friends was getting this golden opportunity to do their thing in the big, majestic space of The Capitol Theatre.

For that golden opportunity, they were really doing it up right all night. Track after track, the components from Ripe, from the two-man horn section, to the two-man guitar team, to the dramatic builds, was combustible with energy, and radiating a concoction of confidence and gratitude. The amount of hype the entire band was clearly feeling thankfully fueled a set of more than solid playing, with strong solos from all around, and even some squaring-off-style improv sprinkled throughout.

For the crowd that they managed to bring into the Capitol Theatre, they rocked them. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Cap’s audience absolutely ate this show up. People jumped around, they danced like they were drunk, they screamed in the middle of songs, many sang along for the entirety of the show.

The fun boiled over at some point. Ripe’s guitarist, Jon Becker, at one point snuck away from the stage, only to reappear in amusing fashion in the presidential box above everybody’s heads. Right after this, the band invited up Christian Rose from Juice to add a few short but shiny violin rips to one of their jams.

At the tail end of what Wolfsohn called the “final stretch” of the night, Ripe laid down a pretty remarkable, multi-segmented version of The Lion King’s “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.” Taken through a few different waves of funk, a couple builds, and even a quick section of jazzy space that preluded a big return to the chorus, if was a keen choice for rounding off a big night of music.

Ripe and Juice might be some names to listen for in the coming times. For all the fun and musical radiance this Capitol Theatre show brought, it certainly also came across as a rock concert equivalent to stepping up to a big plate, and knocking it out of the park.