The night began with the folky guitarist John Cadrin, a more whimsical Ben Folds. Sweet guy, really. Mid-set, he attempted to cover a Jake Bugg song. For those of you who don’t know Jake Bugg, he’s an 18 year old English songwriter who sounds like he’s 50 something he’s an 18 year old English songwriter who sounds like he’s 50 something. It was an odd match really but Cadrin managed to pull it off instrumentally – I wasn’t a fan of the vocals. Ultimately, he didn’t quite capture the attention of the young crowd, who veered their attention to the bar rather than the stage.
Next on, The Novel Ideas. The moment the slide guitar was brought on stage, my eyes widened with possibility. And truth be told, they didn’t disappoint. Daniel, Danny, James, and Sarah all harmonized beautifully. There was an Of Monsters and Men moment when Guitarist/vocalist Daniel and female vocalist Sarah sang back to back in a beautiful love duet. Daniel jokingly disclaimed this before the song. They ended on what you would think would be a somber note, a cover of “Landslide.” But it ended up to be the most energetic song of their set. Daniel encouraged the crowd to singalong. And did they.
The energy was up. But believe me, The Ballroom Thieves could have amped up the crowd regardless. One hit on the djembe from percussionist/vocalist Devin Mauch and the crowd would have roared. And this isn’t even a hypothetical, it happened. The intensity and passion Devin, vocalist/guitarist Martin Earley, and cellist/vocalist Rachel Gawell had for the songs they delivered- it was hard to believe it was just three of them. The Ballroom Thieves would describe themselves as “rock disguised as folk.” I would say who the hell would have imagined an acoustic guitar, a cello, and a djembe could make so much ruckus.
They began their set with “Down By the River”, a song that reminded me of an old crew ship anthem that was sung to unit the men on board. Observing it all, it seemed to be just that. It was a Wednesday night, and despite having work earlier or the next day, the crowd sang, stomped, and drank alongside The Ballroom Thieves. It was the best kind of bar crowd, and I felt as though I was a part of something exclusive. You had to know all the lyrics to each and every song, that was the condition and you were in.
At one point, my eyes rested on these group of men, beers in hand, who stood to the left of the stage where Devin was. They shouted the lyrics to each song on the top of their lungs in unison. The pride they hand in themselves and the band made me prideful-it was contagious. And at one point, during the set, one of the guys handed Devin his beer. And Devin, gladly accepted. Honestly it was well deserved, he needed it. His shirt turned to silk because he was sweating so profusely.
The next song felt like the calm down after a storm. The track was titled “Wait for Water” off their EP The Devil & The Deep. Truth be told, the entire show felt like being on board a ship and The Ballroom Thieves were both our captains and the ocean. When I say this I mean, they led the crowd and in return, received admiration, much like a captain. But they were just as powerful as the water that moved everyone forward. It was exhilarating. At one point during one of the many new songs they debut, Devin stood to level with Martin and Rachel, and they started shouting not to the audience but to the world it seemed. Needless to say it was epic.
Though I must say the highlight was when The Ballroom Thieves played (OUT OF NOWHERE) the Game of Thrones theme song. It was on point. I was almost in disbelief when I first heard it, I just never thought I would see that performed live. After they finished playing the song, Devin shouted into the mic “this kid said play more Lord of the Rings.” The crowd laughed. I never wanted to be friends with a band more.