On Wednesday, my sister and I celebrated her birthday early. She turns 22 tomorrow, and I wanted to give her something she’d remember. So I took her to see Josh Ritter in concert.
It was amazing. We’ve listened to his music for years, and it was so intensely cool to hear his familiar voice not issuing from my stereo speakers, but from the stage in front of me. He has this really funny stage presence, a kind of childlike naiveté, where stories between songs start somewhere random and end somewhere else completely random, and he will get so carried away by the music that he’ll hop around like the Easter Bunny just because he’s so excited.
Case in point: when he played “Wolves”, and the song called for wolf howls, he kneeled down on the stage and howled with his hands around his mouth. And invited us to do the same.* We were very obliging and participated in everything he asked us to do, by the way.
Before he came on, his wife played for about half an hour. His beautiful wife, by the way. They also sang a couple of duets. Awesome.
One of the things I loved was how very American it was. From his wife’s rendition of a French song (hello, American French accent!) to the clothes they wore (one guy, in a suit and tie, really wouldn’t have looked out of place in an insurance office or in a Sunday morning church service) to the stories Josh Ritter told. And (this is a detail I particularly liked), the Idaho flag was displayed prominently at the front of the stage, even though Idaho is hardly the most cool state in the Union. I guess what I’m getting at, is that Josh Ritter and band seemed so authentic. I don’t think they’d qualify as mainstream, yet they managed to steer clear of that “look at us, we’re alternative” vibe that so many musicians have these days. They’re kind of nerdy, and not that trendy-emo-geek look that’s popular these days, but nerdy because that’s just who they are. Again, awesome.
One of the things I like about Josh Ritter’s music – and folk music in general – are the intelligent lyrics. The words are important, the story is important, and when combined with the music, it lets me lose myself in a different world. A world where mummies come to life or a bomb shelter is the perfect place to woo a girl. A world I’m pretty sure I could live in.
*do click on the link and watch the video. You’ll get a sense of what I meant with his stage presence, and you can hear the audience’s rendition of wolf howls. Always fun, right?