Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ryan Montbleau Band with Laura Tsaggaris

Iota Club & Cafe
Arlington, VA
November 24th, 2009

With Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday frenzy right around the corner, I decided to tone it down a bit tonight, settling for the very laid back, pseudo-coffeehouse confines of the Iota Club and Cafe for my weekly music fix. Iota offered the perfect setting for a chill evening, with Christmas lights strung around the stage and a crowd consisting of both music fans and folks who were there to just relax, have a bite to eat, and sip a glass of wine. I had no idea what to expect from the acts on tonight's bill since I'd never heard of either one of them, but they too would prove a perfect segue into a time for being thankful.

Laura Tsaggaris
One of the things I respect more than anything else from a musician is the ability to get in front of a crowd by him or herself with nothing but a guitar and sing his/her own songs...no covers. In my mind, it is truly an amazing thing to witness. Local girl Laura Tsaggaris did exactly that.

Sitting atop a barstool with her guitar balanced on one knee, the strap dangling needlessly to the side, Laura played a stripped down set of songs with a very folksy vibe. She would have fit perfectly into the early 90's heyday of the Lilith Fair Tour. Lending even more to the coffeehouse vibe, Laura took a moment to introduce each song to her audience, ensuring that we felt what she was feeling when she wrote them. With her soothing voice and admirable guitar playing, Laura Tsaggaris was the perfect opening act for this evening...emotional, heartfelt, and most of all...inspiring.

Ryan Montbleau Band
I enjoyed the Ryan Montbleau Band so much, that I'm thankful I stumbled into Iota tonight just so I can call myself a fan of theirs. Are you sensing the theme of this article yet? My honest to God, takeaway impression of these guys can be summed up with the following question...how in the hell were they only playing a small place like Iota? The Boston based band features Ryan on guitar and vocals, Matt Gianarros on bass guitar (and upright bass at times, how cool is that?), Jason Cohen on keyboards, Laurence Scudder on violin and the ever smiling James Cohen on drums (no seriously, this guy wore a grin throughout the entirety of the band's set).

This is going to sound weird, but listening to the Ryan Montbleau Band was like listening to Tracy Chapman fronting the Dave Matthews Band. However even that description doesn't do justice to the range of capabilities displayed by Montbleau and company as they stylistically dipped in and out of folk rock, blue grass, reggae and even jazz, all in a matter of just a few songs. During one particular song, I felt like I had stepped into some backroom lounge act, like I should be sitting at a table in the corner, smoking a cigar, sipping a glass of brandy and having an important conversation. Comparisons to Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and even Otis Redding wouldn't be inaccurate...these guys are talented, I tell you.

Ryan was the perfect frontman, simultaneously being confidently witty and modestly humble. Sample exchange between him and the crowd after already thanking them profusely for coming out...Ryan: "I'm gonna continue to thank you all night"...someone in the crowd: "you're welcome"...Ryan: "thank you for saying you're welcome...now we're in a never ending spiral". He even performed a mini-solo set mid-show when the rest of the band left the stage, allowing Ryan to play a few songs on his own, just him and his guitar. See above for my thoughts on artists with that kind of talent and confidence.

The Ryan Montbleau Band has apparently played 41 cities in 52 nights. Ryan explained that when you're on tour, home keeps expanding. Being from Boston, when they first played in Buffalo, they thought "what the hell are we doing in Buffalo", but now when they get there they feel like they're almost home. He went on to explain that playing at Iota felt the same way...almost like home. Well Ryan, we're glad to have you my friend, and I for one will be back whenever you decide to visit your "home away from home" again.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the kind words! So glad you liked the tunes.

    Be home soon...