top of page

Indie Intensity: The Smoking Popes, LATEWAVES, and Rodeo Boys captivate Columbus

The Smoking Popes

In the wild and pulsating vortex of Ace of Cups in Columbus, the stage was set for a seismic eruption of sound and soul. This, my friends, was the opening night of The Smoking Popes and Rodeo Boys tour – a promise of raw energy and auditory exploration. Now, Ace of Cups, it ain't your glamorous joint - no sir. It's a dive, a gritty den where legends and locals alike share the same cramped space, basking in the glow of aggressive lighting and the uncertain embrace of sonic greatness. As I sauntered in, my eyes were drawn, as if by cosmic force, to the looming Smoking Popes banner – a harbinger of the sonic tempest brewing on the horizon.

The day hadn't been without its challenges. Tiff, from the Rodeo Boys, shot me a message earlier about their van deciding to take a detour into the land of mechanical failures. But amidst the chaos, there lingered a peculiar optimism – the kind that comes when adversity dances with creativity. And so, armed with my trusty camera, I positioned myself at the edge of the stage, ready to be swept away by the promise of new musical horizons.


The Smoking Popes

Enter LATEWAVES, hailing from the mean streets of New Jersey. This trio wasted no time seizing the spotlight with a ferocity that bordered on the supernatural, joining Smoking Popes and Rodeo Boys for only a few shows. From the very first chord, they commanded attention, delivering a sound that was part head-banging anthem, part sing-along sensation. Mike Pellegrino's guitar work was a revelation, weaving intricate webs of sonic delight that belied the band's gritty and modest stature. And behind the drum kit, Shawna Grabowski unleashed a torrent of rhythm and harmony, her backup vocals adding a depth and intensity that sent shivers down the spine. Their sonic brew? A heady concoction of anthemic punk rock and raw energy, drawing comparisons to the greats like The Menzingers and Iron Chic. Pellegrino, with his Claudio Sanchez-inspired mane, anchored the band's stage presence, while bassist Howie Cohen prowled the stage like a seasoned predator. Their performance left me spellbound, and as I snagged their self-titled album, I knew – this was just the beginning of a wild ride.


Rodeo Boys

In the midst of the chaotic whirlwind that is a rock and roll tour, fate had dealt a cruel hand to the Rodeo Boys. Earlier in the day, a message from Tiff hinted at the possibility of disaster looming on the horizon: their tour van had succumbed to the inevitable whims of mechanical failure, leaving them stranded in a nameless Michigan town with no hope of reaching their destination in time for the show. Yet, as the sun dipped low on the horizon and the promise of another night of music hung heavy in the air, there was an undeniable sense of determination radiating from the band. With the nearest auto parts store miles away and no foreseeable means of escape, the Rodeo Boys were faced with a choice: surrender to the frustration of the day's misfortunes, or channel that energy into something greater. And so, Tiff and company arrived on the scene, their spirits unbowed and their resolve unshakeable. As I sat back, beer in hand, I couldn't help but marvel at the sight before me – my friends from Michigan moving with the urgency of a freight train hurtling towards destiny.

It was a moment suspended in time, charged with the electric anticipation of what was to come. For Rodeo Boys, there was no time for hesitation or doubt – only the relentless pursuit of their musical destiny, ready to take the stage and seize their moment in the spotlight. And so, with hearts pounding and adrenaline coursing through their veins, they stood on the precipice of greatness, poised to rock the very foundations of the world. Dramatic, I know. But they are that good.

As the doors to the venue swung open to welcome the eager throngs of concertgoers, there was a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. And then, like a whirlwind of raw energy and unbridled passion, Rodeo Boys stormed the stage, ready to unleash a sonic assault unlike any other. For those who have witnessed their continuous rise to prominence, it was a moment of reckoning – a chance to witness firsthand the evolution of a hard-working band on the cusp of greatness. With each thunderous chord and every defiant lyric, new member Caleb proved himself a worthy successor to the mantle left behind by his predecessor, Cody. With Tiff leading the charge, their commanding presence and undeniable charisma held the audience in thrall, their every move a testament to the indomitable spirit of rock and roll.

For Rodeo Boys, this night was more than just the beginning of a tour – it was a declaration of intent, a reaffirmation of their unwavering commitment to the music that had brought them together. As the final notes of their set rang out into the night, there was a sense of euphoria in the air, a feeling that anything was possible in the presence of such boundless passion and unyielding determination. As I watched them take their final bows, bathed in the glow of the stage lights, I knew that this was only the beginning of a journey that would take them to the very heights of what I hope will be rock and roll immortality.


Smoking Popes

In a serendipitous twist of fate, I found myself thrust into the heart of a Smoking Popes performance, despite my prior unfamiliarity with the band's storied legacy spanning three decades. I know, I know. As they took to the stage, an inexplicable sense of déjà vu washed over me, as if their melodies had been woven into the fabric of my subconscious long before this moment. The songs came back to me - these have been filling somber playlists for years. They were a relative that went away when you were younger, only to come back as if no time had passed at all.

It was as though this reunion between the band and their faithful followers had been years in the making, a triumphant homecoming steeped in nostalgia and anticipation. Amid their set, I found myself recognizing so many of their timeless tunes, each one a poignant reminder of heartache and the bittersweet pang of holding onto the past. Adorned proudly with a Chicago sticker on his guitar, the Josh Caterer's homage to the Windy City resonated deeply with me, as Chicago has always held a special place in my heart – a city with a rich tapestry of history and resilience that infuses its music with an unparalleled depth of emotion.

As the night unfolded, it became abundantly clear why the looming Smoking Popes banner was so well deserved – they owned the stage with an effortless grace and authority that left the crowd hanging on their every word. Each member of the band exuded a commanding presence, their movements a mesmerizing dance of passion and purpose. Poetry in motion, they transformed the confines of the small stage into a realm of boundless possibility, demanding every inch with an unwavering conviction that bordered on regal. In this moment of musical alchemy, they were not just performers – they were homecoming kings, presiding over their kingdom with a majestic flair that left an indelible mark on all who bore witness to their reign.





bottom of page