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Ron Pope Burns the Building to the Ground

“Writing songs often feels like a miracle,” Ron Pope said as he introduced one of my favorite songs of the night.  “This entire song came to me in the shower, so I jumped out, wrapped myself in a towel, and sat at my keyboard, and what I played in that moment is exactly as the song is now.  This is that song, and it’s called ‘In My Bones.’”

I wouldn’t change a single thing about my experience at Ron Pope’s concert this past Friday night.  First of all, the show was at the Paradise Rock Club, a 933-capacity venue near Boston University.  The room is a lot wider side-to-side than it is deep, so you can see well no matter where you’re standing, and everything feels particularly close and intimate.  The atmosphere was pretty special in that everyone seemed to unite around the music and just have a good time; toward the end of the night Pope even claimed, “This is by far the most fun I’ve had on stage this entire tour.”  The musicians showed up ready, and so did the crowd: “I was just informed by our tour manager that you guys are the loudest crowd we’ve had this entire tour,” Pope said after he and his band returned to the stage for their encore performance of “A Drop In The Ocean.”

“This is by far the most fun I’ve had on stage this entire tour.”

Two opening acts performed first: The Heart Of and Ages and Ages.  The Heart Of is an alternative-folk project that’s signed under Ron Pope’s independent record label, Brooklyn Basement Records.  The performance consisted of Pope’s long-time friend Zach Berkman singing soft, emotional melodies with finger-style accompaniment on his Telecaster, and Berkman even brought his two brothers onto the stage to sing with him for one song.  The second opener, Ages and Ages, is a six-piece band that brought a lot of upbeat energy to the stage.  Just about all of the band members participated in singing the lyrics, and they were very percussion-driven, using a drum set as well as tambourines, shakers, and cowbells.

Then Ron Pope took the stage and played what was probably the most dynamic performance I’ve ever seen.  He played quiet songs which were just him and his Gibson acoustic guitar; he played an intimate, all-acoustic song with his full band for which they didn’t even use microphones, and he played loud, cranked-up rock-and-roll.  He’s primarily known for his softer music, but he told Trish Jackson and me in our interview with him that he likes to quote Bruce Springsteen, saying, “The difference between me and every other guy who walked out of Greenwich Village holding an acoustic guitar at the same time as me is that at the end of the night, I can plug in my Telecaster and burn the building to the ground.”  He and his band also used a wide array of instrumentation, including an upright bass, a banjo, an accordion, a fiddle, a saxophone, a trumpet, and all of your standard instruments like guitars, drums, and keys.  After the show, I even got to meet Charles, the trumpet and accordion player, who, like me, is also from Memphis.  What really stuck out to me about Pope, though, were the soulful nuances in his voice, as well as the occasional dashes of country twang and blues.  I don’t think I’ve heard anyone who has quite as intricate of a voice as he does, and that was an large part of what made the concert so special.

In Trish’s and my interview, he had said to us, “I hope that if you come out, you go home and you’ve lost your voice and you are sweaty and you are totally excited and satisfied with having spent the night with us.”  Well, I can’t speak for everyone who was there, but what I know is that I lost my voice, I got pretty sweaty, and I was pretty satisfied afterwards.

 

Photos courtesy of The Rock’s photo editor Trish Jackson ‘20

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