Thursday, May 11, 2006

Josh Ritter/Hem @ The Narrows Center, Fall River

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to go see Idaho native Josh Ritter at the Narrows Center for the Arts. I had been wanting to check out this venue for quite some time, they have weekly live shows, mostly blues and bluegrass. The Narrows Center is located in Fall River, a very blue collar town about an hour from where I live. My friend Tom and I met at the Fall River United Soccer Club for chorizo and cheap well drinks, then hit the package store for some Smuttynose IPA, because we were told that the Narrows Center did not sell alcohol at their shows. I was surprised by how cool this venue was, it is on the third floor of an old warehouse that overlooks the river, wood floors, huge windows, and the best part, it is BYOB.

The Brooklyn band Hem opened the night with a stellar line-up of pastoral acoustic pop. Sally Ellyson's moody lead vocals, accompanied by a warm piano, drums, mandolin, and guitar brought to mind the Cowboy Junkies, though Hem's songs bordered more on the traditional country sound, even covering the Johnny Cash standard "Jackson", which finally got the audience out of their seats. Countrypolitan at it's best.

I haven't listened to much of Josh Ritter's music, though I just picked up his newest album, 'The Animal Years', which hasn't left my CD player since I brought it home. Songs of war, wolves, and love. Good stuff. I learned that Ritter lived in Providence and Sommerville a few years back, playing the local clubs. This show seemed to be a homecoming of sorts, his loyal fans turning out to see their old friend, and he seemed happy to be back. Highlights for me included the haunting "Thin Blue Flame", which clocked in at over ten minutes, and his cover of Modest Mouse's "Blame It On the Tetons". You can tell that he loves what he is doing, and still seems a little freaked out that so many people are paying money to see him. After his show he hung out in the audience, drinking beer and talking to people as they exited, very humble and personable.

The music was great, but I really think it was the venue that made this show. The following night both bands were playing at the Avalon in Boston, and I have to think it must have been a very different experience. The Narrows Center felt like you were at a private party, the bands were close, and free to let loose a bit. I'll be back, and next time I won't forget my bottle opener.

Listening to: Stones- Beggars Banquet


CHW said...

Man that sounds so very cool. Next time I get out your way (whenever that may be) you must take me there.

Scrubby Nub and The Bothered Brigade said...

Sounds like a great show and cool venue. A great venue can seal the deal sometimes.

Animal Years is, track-for-track, one of the best records I've picked up in a while.

tapjunkie said...

send an address and I will send you CDs of that show.