I hadn’t planned on a Saturday night out in Boston, but when my parents invited me to join them for a concert less than a mile from my campus, I couldn’t say no. We went to see ZZ Ward, who was playing at Cafe 939 on Boylston.
We arrived a little late, but still managed to catch a round of songs from the opening act, Zach Henderdorf. I enjoyed Henderdorf’s melodies quite a bit. He’s casual, yet sophisticated, and brings good energy, good rhythm, great falsetto, and some superb guitar talent. He somewhat reminded me of John Mayer, but his hip-hop flair made me think along the lines of Flight of the Conchords as well. He was charming, and I gladly clapped along to his finale as he rocked out on his harmonica for his finale.
One intermission and a few Sara Bareilles songs later, Ward took to the stage with her band. Her purple fedora screamed, “You will remember me!” and that we will. She started off with her most famous single, “Til the Casket Drops,” which was featured on ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. Aided a snazzy guitar or drum solo or two by her bandmates, Ward constantly kept the audience energized. She also did a great job keeping us engaged, explaining the inspiration and meaning for a number of her songs, as well as jokingly asking us if we had ever heard of her home state (Oregon).
I doubt Ward would like to be compared to any other artist, but I’m guessing she wouldn’t be too offended if that artist was Amy Winehouse. ZZ stays in the alto range and can switch from crystal clear to raspy in a heartbeat.
During the performance, at times, her voice was almost piercing; I think her mic volume was too high. On the whole, Cafe 939 is a nice venue. I can’t believe it was my first time there, having lived within walking distance for over two years. The actual cafe has a great staff and ”the usual” cafe menu at very reasonable pricing. (After a minor cashier error, my parents ended up paying a mere $2 for two double espressos, an absolute steal in Boston.) The performance area, called the “Red Room” has standing room for about 150 people, in addition to a few sofas on the side. There were about 100 of us that night; it was enough to feel like a crowd, and not a can of sardines. The average age of the audience was probably about 25, which makes quite a bit of sense for an artist like ZZ, a venue like Cafe 939, and a college town like Boston.
Two thumbs up for Henderdorf, Ward, and Cafe 939.
(ZZ Ward’s next three shows are in California: San Diego on October 17th, West Hollywood on the 18th, and Santa Barbara on the 19th. See her official site for details.)