I’ve been keeping Josh Ritter in my back pocket since 2001. That’s when I first heard his song “The Golden Age of Radio” on a free compilation. I could tell from the opening line about the girl in the cowboy hat that he was right up my alley, but I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t buy his records. I just set him aside for emergency purposes and slowly gathered a bunch of his songs on other comps (“Girl in the War”, “Wings”, “Kathleen”, “You Don’t Make It Easy Babe”, and “Wolves”). Josh Ritter stayed in my back pocket for years. Waiting. Poor guy.
Then 12 years went by in what felt like 6 months and I found myself sitting in Beth’s house half listening to her copy of Josh Ritter’s new record, The Beast in Its Tracks.
I got to the song “New Lover” and knew right then that it would be my favorite song of the year. It’s probably my favorite break-up song since something off Blood on the Tracks. That last line hits so hard, but he manages to keep some humor in there; it’s not all hate and vitriol. Not only did I know I loved “New Lover”, I knew it was finally time to take Josh out and give him the attention he deserved. I went to the record store and filled in the numerous gaps in his discography.
It was around this time that I noticed Josh Ritter was scheduled to perform a show at the Taft Theatre. I can get there in 11 minutes! I decided to go.
Then I changed my mind and decided to stay home and sulk for no reason. Then I decided to go. Then I changed my mind again and went back to the sulking option. Sometimes it’s hard to put on pants. Then I entered a fake raffle to win tickets. I didn’t win. I sulked some more and wrote a post about Dirk Benedict. Then, a half hour after the doors had already opened, I decided to go to the concert. I got in my car and zoomed off before I could change my mind for the eleventh time.
I got downtown and headed for my secret street of free parking spaces. It’s just around the corner from the Taft Theatre and I’ve been parking there since the early 90s (Big Head Todd, probably). Nobody ever parks on my secret street. It’s mine! The entire street was empty when I pulled in. All the other people probably followed the guy waving the fluorescent flag into the $10 garage.
I walked to the Taft Theatre and took a picture of the marquee. I take pictures of marquees. It’s one of the things I do.
Another thing I do is dismiss guys with dreads trying to sell me their extras. I instead walked into the venue and asked the ticket lady to give me a seat as far away from other people as possible. It wasn’t as far away as I would’ve liked, but many of the upper sections were blocked off and not available. It ended up being a great seat. And I saved about $13 in excessive Ticketmaster charges by buying straight from the venue. Here’s my ticket:
I headed on in and checked out the merch table while Sea Wolf was performing the opening set.
I purchased the show-specific poster by a designer named Charlie Wagers. It will sit flat in my closet with all the other concert posters I’ve collected over the years. One of these days I’m going to get them properly framed and displayed. Until then, it’s the closet for them.
The problem with buying posters is that it’s no fun to hang on to them all through the show. They tend to get dinged up. So I walked back to my car and put the poster in the trunk. Then I headed back to the Taft to catch the end of Sea Wolf’s performance. I liked what I heard and probably should’ve waited until the set break to safeguard my poster. Oh well.
And then Josh Ritter came out. He was amazing. He has so many great songs and it looks like he really appreciates that people pay money to hear him sing them. It looks like he enjoys what he does. That joy sort of rubs off, too. I left feeling so high and happy. It reminded me of how I used to feel when I was a kid coming out of church. The music high lasts a lot longer, though. The church high was probably just the sugar from the free donuts coursing through my eight-year-old veins.
I don’t know what I’m talking about. All I really know is that I made a mistake keeping Josh Ritter in my back pocket for so many years. I should’ve taken him out a long time ago.
Back to the show. Highlights for me included “Lillian, Egypt”, “Wolves”, “Snow Is Gone” (which made me teary-eyed for reasons I can’t figure out), and the finale, “To the Dogs or Whoever”. I would’ve liked to have heard “The Golden Age of Radio”, but just about everything he played was great and I’m definitely not whining. The only misstep the entire night came during “Kathleen”. The song itself was good, but Josh’s rambling story in the middle didn’t make any sense and went nowhere. He should’ve practiced that one in the mirror beforehand. Oh well. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t matter. As always, here are my handwritten setlist notes:
Even I can barely read that, so here’s that setlist all spelled out in a legible way. I can vouch for it being complete and accurate:
Main set: Idah0/Southern Pacifica/Hopeful/Harrisburg/Evil Eye/Lillian, Egypt/The Curse/Joy to You Baby/Wolves/Change of Time/(on airplane magazines & ghosts)/Galahad/Snow Is Gone/The Appleblossom Rag/Folk Bloodbath/(on marriage & divorce)/In Your Arms Again/Good Man/New Lover/Monster Ballads/Right Moves/Kathleen
Encore: Lights/To the Dogs or Whoever
And that’s all I have to say about Josh Ritter except that he gives away a lot of his music to get the word out there. There are currently two live shows and a sampler available for free and legal download on NoiseTrade. It’s all good stuff and the sampler even includes the studio version of “New Lover” that convinced me it was time. All you need to do to get the songs is give Josh your email address and zip code.
Oh, and I forgot about these stickers I got free for buying the poster:
By the way, I have no idea what that “back pocket” thing was about. Sorry.