After a couple of nights off and spent recovering from the drunken shenanigans that was the 3OH!3 concert (which I didn’t write about because, let’s be honest, I remember very little), I needed a show. I only got lucky that Friday night’s show was one that I was super excited and anxious for. I’ve been listening to William Elliott Whitmore since I snagged his album when working at a record shop at age 14. It was unlike anything I had ever heard but, since that fateful day, has been a sound that I often crave and need.
Kicking the night off was the uber-talented local- Sam Cassidy. With just a guitar in hand and a microphone set up, Sam sat in the chair that was set up in center stage and instantly captivated the quickly growing crowd with his story telling and his smooth and sensitive voice. Although I’ve seen his name many times before, I’ve only been able to catch Sam a handful of times and he leaves me speechless every single time. His songs are so much more than just songs. They are parts of his life and the life of the characters he has created (which could also just be him but I don’t know him well enough to say). The stories go through ups and downs much like his voice. With moments that catch out off guard and other moments that whisk you away to a dreamland where all you can think of to do is lay out on the ground and look up at the ceiling pretending it’s the night sky, Sam’s music and voice is a true treasure to the Twin Cities. Kudos to William Elliott Whitmore (or whoever chose the opener) for picking someone who definitely deserved the nearly sold out audience.
Following Sam’s set was the magical set of Raye Zaragoza. I had never heard of Raye prior to Friday night’s show but as soon as she jumped into her passion-fueled set, I was in love. Her voice is distinct but yet somehow familiar. Much like Sam and what William Elliott Whitmore would close the show with, her voice and music brought a sense of calm over me which, with how bad my anxiety has been lately, is really saying something. Raye’s lyrics struck me. She had a very bad ass vibe that was reflected in her music. Singing of being strong as a woman and standing strong in your viewpoints definitely resonated with me and the rest of the audience. You could feel the compassion that she has for people in general as she sang her song “In The River” which was in response and dislike for the Dakota Access Pipeline. That compassion mixed with the pure passion that was heard loud and clear throughout Raye’s time on stage made for a truly enjoyable set. Although a bit calmer than what I typically get into, she had me eating out of the palm and watching her every move without even trying and, being a Friday night and with a couple of drinks in me, that says more about her power as a musician than my words ever could.
Closing out the truly beautiful night of music was the one and only William Elliott Whitmore. An Iowa boy done good, he has been a staple in my daily playlists for years. I remember playing his albums when working at the record shop growing up and having conversations with people about him just trying to get them to buy his albums that were there on consignment. I knew, even at such a young age, that this guy had “it”. His voice, his look– nothing made sense which made him absolutely everything that I thought everyone needed. Looking like a typical Iowa farmer with his wide brimmed hat and his traditional looking tattoos peeking out from under his button up shirt blue shirt, seeing him take the stage was like a breath of fresh air. Before he even took his seat and started singing, I felt a sense of warmth (and I swear it wasn’t the alcohol this time) and comfort wash over me. As soon as he opened his mouth and started singing, I got lost and my friends that I had dragged along for the ride were quick to mention how that had never seen me to captivated by a musician.
I don’t even know how to describe William’s voice without telling you to just listen to it. It’s deep, dark, an full of hurt but there’s a sense of optimism and pure bliss that is hidden underneath the darkness. Although most songs are slow and steady with the thumping of his bass drum being the only addition to his voice and banjo (or sometimes acoustic guitar), there are other songs that make you raise your glass in the air and cheers the stranger next to you. His lyrics are deeper than deep and are definitely words that you can take how you want. That was what drew me to him in the first place and continues to be something that keeps me coming back. No matter how many times I listen to his albums or go see him live, I get something different out of it every time and last night was no different.
The vibe in the packed venue was full of life and energy while feeling cozy and almost sleepy. I know that makes absolutely no sense but there’s no other way to put it. Some people were getting rowdy with hooting and hollering at random times throughout the set while some were just swaying quietly to the beat. The best part of that was that there was no judgement. There never is when I see William perform. If you want to be sad and cry into your beer you can do that. If you want to be drunk and excited you can do that. If you don’t know what to feel or how to act, go ahead and do that. William’s voice and lyrics take everyone to a different place which is beyond beautiful.
Last night wasn’t my typical show. There was no mosh pit, no sweat dripping off the musicians on stage, no crashing cymbals and blast beats— it was just passion in the raw. It was a couple of uber-talented musicians sharing their deepest and darkest thoughts with a room full of strangers who all take the words and the music a little differently while still being together and all on the same page. It was one of those shows that left me speechless and completely lost in my happy place.