Crazy Town Reviews Ben Folds’ @ Stubbs
Artist: Ben Folds (Solo) and Tall Heights
Venue: Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater – Austin, TX
Date: Sept. 17, 2017
It was a warm, dry evening in Austin, Texas for the Ben Folds concert at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater. It had been a scorcher up in the mid 90’s during the day, but the evening had cooled down to around 75 and there was a nice breeze that rushed through the crowd making it an almost perfect night for a show.
The Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater is an outdoor venue behind a famous BBQ joint in Austin and I have seen many bends at this venue over the time that I have been in Austin. This was the first concert that I have covered for Crazy Town Media and it turns out that I got to see an artist perform that I always wanted to see, just never had the opportunity previously.
I started listening to Bends Folds Five back in high school, not to date myself, and I always had a special place for the song “Brick” back then. I knew it wasn’t a happy song, and was nothing like anything other music I listened to at the time (Think Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails), but for some reason the song really “spoke” to me. Even to this day, I’lI still dabble in Ben Folds music from time to time. There this something about solo piano artist that play “rock” type music that I thoroughly enjoy.
The opening act was a band named Tall Heights from Boston, MA. They consisted of an upright bass player, drums, acoustic guitar. I hadn’t ever heard this band previously and I was a little impressed with their sound. The best way I could describe them would be melodic and chill. They reminded me of bands such as The Lumineers, with a folkish sound or influence, but not entirely folk based.
The music overall was well played overall, but not the usual thing I would listen to on my Spotify account. It’s a little too soft and slow for my taste. Their stage presence was about average for any other band. Nothing they did blew me away, but they also weren’t just standing there not moving at all.
The highlight of their set was during their 5th song. They asked each person in the crowd bring out their cell phones before the song started. At that point the instructed every everyone to call the person standing next to them.
Once the calls were connected, they directed everyone to put the phones on speakerphone and to flip the two phones back to back and put them together. This made a really unique sound from the feedback, and with the majority of the audience doing this, it made an amazing auditory effect across the venue, which added to their song.
Overall, I would Give Tall Heights a 6 out of 10. I, personally, wouldn’t go see them as a headliner, but I understand why they would have a following. They were talented artists and played their music well, its just not my cup of tea.
The Ben Folds portion of the concert was one of the most entertaining shows I have ever been to, which is hard to pull off, especially as a one man show. I found him to be very personable, chatting with the audience between songs, making witty comments, and being and all around entertaining performer.
He told personal stories about things that had happened in his life from when he worked on a construction site, to receiving an award from his old high school over Skype, and lots of other little anecdotes that were relevant to the song he was going to play next. He even had a drum set brought out on stage a one point and did a drum solo.
The audience participation for his sets were through the roof. You could tell that the crowd in attendance knew their Ben Folds musical catalog. There were a few times the crowd was singing along at such a high level, he would stop singing and just smile and let the crowd finished the lyric.
He also at one point had the fans break up into 2 separate groups to do 2 separate harmonys to the song. He directed each half of the crowd to mimic different beats with their voices, and when the two combined it was the melody of the song, which sounded amazing in person.
He played two separate sets with a break in between that covered close to 2 hours. The first set he did was all songs that he chose to play, and they spanned across his discography not just sticking to a new CD he was trying to push, or a certain album. He started out with Phone in a Pool and then played some other popular songs such as Old Bastard, and You Don’t Know Me.
The Second Set
The 2nd set was a little more unique. The tour he is currently on is called the Paper Airplanes Tour. During the intermission, a band manager or someone came on the stage and instructed the audience to go to the back of the venue to find paper and pens. They asked that during the intermission to write requests on the paper that you would like to hear during the second set. After you had done that to fold the paper into a paper airplane and just wait for the cue.
One of the coolest things I have ever witnessed is when they came on stage and counted down for everyone to throw their airplanes on the stage. There were hundreds of airplanes being thrown all at once, landing all over the stage. When he came out for the second set, he walked around the stage and would pick up an airplane, then play that song for the crowd.
During this set he played songs such as Narcolepsy, Fred Jones, Pt2, Rocking the Suburbs, a cover of the NWA song Bitches Aint Shit, and he even played an impromptu song someone requested that just asked “ to play a song about mullets” which he dubbed “Business in the front and party in the back”.
When the show was done, the crowd kept cheering hoping for an encore song or two. He certainly did deliver as he came out and played “The Luckiest” which he dedicated to two fans who reached out to him before the show to request the song as they had just gotten married. He wrapped up the show with “Army” as his last encore.
I would have to say this show would have been a solid 9 out of 10 for me. I would absolutely go see Ben Folds again, as not only did he put on a good show musically, but his stage presence and crowd interaction was some of the best I have experienced at any concert I have ever been to.
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