Photo by Rachel Levitin
It’s been said countless different ways, but according to folks who’ve lived around these parts, the District is “a northern city with southern charm.” As a daughter of two midwesterner’s, I never knew whether or not the whole “D.C. as a northern city with southern charm thing” was true or not. Then, I saw Texan singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham at the 9:30 Club. In the span of 24 hour hours, I found myself splitting my time between a colossal audience at the Verizon Center for Glee Live and a rock club turned honky tonk show at 9:30 Club for Bingham on June 10. Bingham brought the south with him.
Bingham’s claim to fame is due to his work on the “Crazy Heart” soundtrack. The film’s theme “The Weary Kind” won Bingham an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe. What struck me about Bingham wasn’t his quick ascent to musical validity in the form of shiny trophies but rather him as a performer. He’s got grit. He screams honesty from his raspy, traveled vocals. He preaches a temporary calm to life’s storm through his haunting yet elegant slide guitar playing. You can blame it on his southern roots or scruffy disposition, but Bingham’s got troubadour written all over his face. Combine his minstrel ways with the likes of his band and you’ve got one hell of a show to see.
It speaks highly of Bingham that he didn’t feel the need to play “The Weary Kind.” His fans didn’t really need it, either. What resonates most with his audience is Bingham’s storytelling ability. His lyrics, while poetic, stick to the standard fare of country song composition — keep it simple and tell people something worth listening to.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Country Strong” than you’ve seen this crowd. It’s a group of cowboys in hats with Budweiser’s in their hands. They’re singing along with every word the band’s singer says. There’s dancing and smiles and a sense of camaraderie throughout the room. Then, add a little southern drawl over the microphone and a twang from a dobro and you’ve got it — that’s a Ryan Bingham concert at the 9:30 Club. It’s a lot of fun and nothing like your standard 9:30 Club rock and roll affair.
If given the choice of seeing Bingham anywhere else in town, there’s no better place than the 9:30 Club. Why? One word. Sound. The sound at the 9:30 Club is incomparable to the likes of smaller, intimate venues like DC9. Bingham could’ve done DAR Constitutional Hall some justice but he’s best suited for the 9:30 stage. It was a perfect match.