Serena Ryder at #RFF12
Arriving at the park for day two of the RFF the over-riding impression I got is that it’s a whole lot fuller here than it was last night. The standing/dancing area immediately in front of the stage is infinitely more jam-packed than it was last night for the second act. Granted, Serena Ryder and her band are a lot more movement-inspiring than Timber Timbre was.
Yes, I missed the first group of the night, The Great Lake Swimmers. It’s a group I’m not terribly familiar with so it’s a shame I missed them on the main stage. I take some consolation having had the pleasure of introducing bandleader Tony Dekker during the daytime festivities in the park. He was an exceedingly charming fellow, even if he was more nervous than you might expect a guy who has been playing music for the last decade to be (you’ll see more on that in the week to come as my interviews get edited and posted to the site).
Anyway: Serena Ryder.
I’ve had a passing fancy with Ryder’s latest CD, Is It OK?, for some time, throwing some of her singles into occasional rotation on my CJTR show. I’ve long had a soft spot for songwriters like Ryder, Sarah Slean, Martina Sorbara, and the like that straddle the line between pop and rock. Ryder’s more heartbreaking proclivities and a slightly darker edge make her that much more compelling.
Which is why I didn’t expect to hear “Good Morning Starshine” in her set. Frankly, I’d wager that the majority of the audience only knows the song from that one episode of The Simpsons where Homer mistakes Mr. Smithers for a glowing alien. It was a great version though, very up-tempo and buoyant with Ryder doing some high-stepping along with the beat.
In fact much of her set had an energetic feeling, perhaps thanks to the backing of The Heartbroken. New song “Hey There” had a lot of people dancing in their seats. It’s a tailor-made sing-along, the bulk of its chorus consisting of some charming couplets about “the real thing” and how “nobody will take your place.” Ryder’s vocals on this song, and several others, carried a tracy of country music phrasing as well, which worked really well.
Ryder is every bit the frontwoman, swaying constantly while she played her acoustic guitar, tossing her longish hair between lines, and stomping her way up and down the stage. Her voice is arresting and polished; she owns every nuance and flourish in her songs and just sounds strong.
Speaking with the festival’s Artistic Director Sandra Butel earlier in the day she remarked how each day of the festival has it’s own energy and flow. She talked about how huge Friday night’s performances were and said each day of the festival feels like the apex; there’s no possible way the same heights could be reached the next day (or the next, for that matter). But she said each night never fails to stand on its own and reach it’s own heights. Ryder proved to be a good early act; considering the visibly larger number of people expressing their interest earlier on Saturday she was a great high-energy act that brought the crowd along with her. It seems like tonight may hit some heights after all.
Sereny Ryder music may be available for purchase from her new web site, whenever it’s created. Her site is, incidentally, right here, although there isn’t much on it. Maple Music has some more for sure too.