My night began with an inspired set from local SF artist Ryan Auffenberg (well, actually it began with a protracted and painful search for a parking space where I would not get accosted or carjacked, which caused me to miss the beginning of Ryan’s set). Backed by a full band and featuring guest vocals from Hannah Prater of The Bittersweets, Ryan turned out a polished and impassioned show to a near-capacity crowd.
The setlist was pleasantly longer than I’d expected (Hey Mona Lisa, Deep Water, Curtain Call, Be Kind, Under All The Bright Lights, Missouri In The Morning, Please Don’t Go), and the packed crowd received Auffenberg very enthusiastically. It was good to see this talented artist getting such a roaring reception.
VIDEO: “Missouri In The Morning“
There was some overlap with Ryan and Josh Ritter upstairs in the Swedish American Hall and I extricated myself as soon as I could. Changing gears entirely, I left the sweaty, packed downstairs and tiptoed into a silent room with everyone in rapt attention to the folk troubadour onstage.
Josh Ritter is a bit of a stylistic anomaly, almost as if he were plucked from another era and dropped into 2007. His appearance definitely has this air of some hippie Irish minstrel with his enormous red curly head of hair and formidable ‘stache stretching across his often widely-smiling mouth and cherubic rosy cheeks. Plus, he was sporting a cream pinstriped suit — you don’t see that often (unless it’s in a tongue-in-cheek hipster fashion statement or a Floridian retiree).
Ritter is also a rare, rare performer in his obvious ebullience to be performing. As he weaves his intricate, literate songs on stage, he overflows with each lyric as if he were birthing every line afresh for the first time. There is no sense of a rote performance, and no indication that he’s sung some of these hundreds of times. Instead, he radiates a palpable joy and a sense of barely-contained anticipation with each word that comes out. It was really a sheer delight to watch, and breathed new life into songs I thought I knew.
I was continually amazed by the lyrics of his songs all night long, feverishly writing down snippets that spoke to me. In fact, he even performed “Idaho” with all the lights in the hall turned off, which made each word just hover out in the darkness. He’s gotta be one of the best lyricists out there.
(both excellent photos credited to Doug Rice)
VIDEO: “The Temptation Of Adam“
(new song from forthcoming album)
Ritter writes these almost mythical stories, always with apocalyptic overtones. This one smarted a bit with the way it ends — tragic irony. More for listening than watching, video not so hot but hey, I tried.
VIDEO SNIPPET: “Wolves“
I wasn’t planning on recording this, but he was just SO impassioned and into the song that I had to record it for myself. The camera work is pretty jumpy. Plus, those lyrics (see post title), that chorus. Amazing.
VIDEO: “Thin Blue Flame“
Interesting to hear this song in a solo acoustic setting without the thundering, building piano chords. Still striking.