There are many quirks and oddities that make Athens a place we all love: Debating what’s in the special sauce on a chicken and waffle, hiking up to radar hill with your best friends or studying in Donkey Coffee with a steaming cup by your side is just the tip of that iceberg. But from the hype heard around Court Street and the giddy excitement from every music fan in town, it’s clear that seeing a performance from The Ridges ranks up there with any of the other must-do unique activities that Athens has to offer in our short four-year experience.
It’s a sight many of us have seen before but Saturday’s Ridges show at Casa Nueva is still just as bafflingly magical no matter how many times you’ve seen them perform. The entire community seems to come out to see the band, screaming every lyric at the top of their lungs, which is unheard of for a band that has a relatively small following. For anyone who may not know, The Ridges could best be described as an orchestral Americana band, but that title seems to mellow for the bombastic, stomping and screaming that took place Saturday. The group combines rock, folk and indie but more and more so have put a greater emphasis on the rock portion.
The Ridges experiment a lot with song order during shows from starting in an acoustic circle in the middle of the crowd before plugging in, to the noisy chaotic orchestral screams on the beginning of “Not A Ghost.” This time the group went right into “When The Bell Tolls,” which is arguably one of their best and most energetic songs. However, Victor Rasgaitis’ voice never reached the level of screaming nirvana during the lyric “you should know” that puts the special kick to the song. It’s like going to an Avett Brothers concert and not hearing Seth Avett’s scream blood curdling scream — disappointing but still overwhelmingly fulfilling.
Transitions between songs are flowing and never skip a beat as the band brings the energy down with some simple strokes of a cello to evoke chills throughout your body. Talor Smith is incredible as she shreds standing behind her cello while providing backup vocals and organizing the entire string section. And the organization and practice on those string parts paid of Saturday, especially on “The Insomniac’s Song” which had intensely subtle cello and violin parts throughout the whole song.
Hearing “Invented Love” is always a treat. It’s nice to have the complex string parts and noisy background noise but “Invented Love” is just straight to the punch. This love song reminds you of why love is the most overused subject matter in song writing. Rasgaitis’ voice is so genuine that you can’t help but be drawn into the song.
And of course no Ridges performance would be complete without a cover of Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” to make everyone feel warm and closer to your fellow Athens friends.
Indigo Wild was not to be overlooked Saturday night either. With the group’s high energy indie rock style and flowing melodic guitar licks, the band should be headlining its own show in Athens soon.
“Rowboats” is a great poetic song that continually builds and falls with each passing chorus. And “Eager Times” is made into a full on rock song with almost metal-like drumming to support the indie guitar melodies and harmonized vocals.