Channeling the best of the ’60s

P icture a tidy house in a suburban neighborhood, on the surface one that fits in with all the neighbors. Adults. Homeowners. Parents. Employees. Salvadore Ross is made of these. “In 2016 we were struggling to find an appropriate fit for a bass player,” says guitarist Kyle Byrum. “Scheduling or talent was always the problem.” […]

Salvadore Ross rocks Hannah’s downtown


Kyle Byrum (guitar), Kyle Sweney (drums), and Matt Szafranski (bass). Photo: Chris Corn.

By John Puckett

Picture a tidy house in a suburban neighborhood, on the surface one that fits in with all the neighbors. Adults. Homeowners. Parents. Employees. Salvadore Ross is made of these.

“In 2016 we were struggling to find an appropriate fit for a bass player,” says guitarist Kyle Byrum. “Scheduling or talent was always the problem.” Drummer Kyle Sweney chimes in, “Or both.” “We finally found [bassist Matt Szafranski], who’s also an adult. Though he just squeaked in at age thirty.” The two Kyles laugh and Matt takes his ribbing with aplomb.

Salvadore Ross are grownups, just like the neighbors. “Empathy and compassion are important to us,” one of the Kyles says. The episode of The Twilight Zone from which they took their name is “pretty dark, but highlights the importance of empathizing.” They’re good neighbors.

But in their basement, they are quite unlike their neighbors.

The basement houses a classic practice space: half-finished basement with old rugs spread underneath all the instruments and amplifiers, gestures toward soundproofing, a couch, a chair, a stool, some strung lights, stored-away kids’ art supplies and other boxes and bins from the household upstairs.

The audio mix in the practice space is perfect.

It’s better than any venue of any size I’ve ever been in, a mix finely but simply tuned by true musicians. They begin to jam. Thick, dirty, psychedelic drawls come out. There’s some howling in the vocals, wah pedals galore, some old blues riffs, lots of Bigsby tremolo… all in the same song, and they’re just warming up. It’s only been three minutes and already I feel like I’m at Woodstock.

It’s loud like rock and roll should be, but sharp and clear, each instrument resonating at its peak level. They’ve worked hard to sound like they do, so I ask them what they’re working so hard on. “We’re working on trying to channel our favorite elements from the ‘60s,” Byrum says. “Psychedelia, blues, rock. The goal used to be to be powerful and hard hitting with minimal members,” Byrum says, and they’ve nailed that one. “But now we’re shifting towards a slowed down, tripped-out pace.” They’re nailing that one, too. If you listened to one of their songs blind you’d swear it was recorded in 1969. They’ve fine-tuned their throwback sound by practicing like men possessed.

They released their first album on Valentine’s Day 2017, then in support of the album, they went on tour, playing fifty-four shows inside a vertical box stretching from Cleveland to Nashville. (Remember, they all have day jobs). Byrum says it’s stressful, but “I feel like if we play a good show, the negative of the venue or the crowd just fades away. If we play good music, people are into it. If we’re humble and nice, people warm up to that. We’ve played shows to five people and they were still great shows.”

Byrum says they have a loyal group of fans who come to all their shows, and bring their friends. “We didn’t know any of them. They just saw us on stage and now they love us. At one show a guy came to the merch table with a fifty-dollar bill but we didn’t have change for it, so he spent the whole thing on us. People like that aren’t there to get something, they’re supporting us.”

Part of their attraction is their dynamism. They have songs about black cats and whiskey and broken bones, but there’s an underlying vibe of “we want to surprise people with our songs.” If the performance they give in their basement is only a fraction of their live show, you’ll be surprised.

Salvadore Ross’s next album is due out soon, vinyl first, then a downloadable version. They’re looking forward to that, and to FancyFest in Yellow Springs. FancyFest is host to more than twenty acts, it’s held on private property, and there are “unicorns throughout the fairgrounds,” Byrum says. “It’s for true music lovers. The crowd, the atmosphere, the vibe, it’s a music festival where you don’t have to worry about anything getting stolen or people being mean. If you go, look for the fairy doors…”

Fairy doors? I had to look them up online. Often set into the base of a tree, fairy doors usually front “a small space where people can leave notes, wishes, or gifts for the fairies.” If you find a fairy door at FancyFest and you leave a wish behind it, and your wish is to be transported to the heyday of sixties rock and roll, and then Salvadore Ross starts playing on stage, you’ll believe.

Salvadore Ross will appear at Hannah’s, 121 N. Ludlow St., Dayton on July 28. For more information call 937.640.1335, visit hannahsonludlow.com, or check out facebook.com/SalvadoreRoss/.

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John Puckett is a former philosophy professor who ran away to join the circus. He’s now a writer, waiter, and curator of bathroom stall graffiti. Reach DCP freelance writer John Puckett at JohnPuckett@DaytonCityPaper.com

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