I thought that this show started at 8, but parking wasn’t very friendly near the Boot & Saddle so I wound up getting in the place at 8:15. I didn’t know who Jason Anderson was, but I always try to see the opening act. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover he wasn’t going on until 8:30.
So I was standing there waiting for him to come up on stage, when the stage lights went out and a light above me turned on. I thought they were just putzing with the lights, but then a guy with a guitar grabbed a chair and stood on it right behind me up against the side wall.
This was Jason Anderson. He had opened for Strand of Oaks all three nights at the sold out shows at Boot & Saddle. He said that he had told the crowd the last night that he would play an electric set, but it felt right to do this acoustic set right there.
The room was dim (so dim that I couldn’t even get a picture of him–this one is of him playing with Strand of Oaks (I didn’t realize he was going to do that)). He had someone holding up a lyric book as he told us he was going to sing a couple of songs that he had just written.
And what came next was an incredible half an hour.
From the start, Anderson was passionate and personable and won everyone over as he described what each song was about. He was honest and emotive and was really earnest about how pleased he was that we were all there and how we needed to really appreciate where we were at the moment.
And it sounds kind of cheesy to write it, and it felt a little cheesy at first, but Anderson was able to break through the hard exterior of everyone in the place and allows us all to give into the moment.
The first song was called something like “Sometimes Windows, Sometimes Walls.” He said it was about those times when we scroll through Facebook over and over in case you missed something. After he sang the chorus, he asked us to sing along with it. And we did. And we sang louder when he asked and quieter when he asked. The Boot & Saddle is so small (the show was sold out at 150 tickets) that it sounded amazing. And we all fed off the energy.
Each of his six songs had a story (usually funny, but not always). He often interrupted the song to comment or fill us in on something else. And then he continued, talking about how great the vibe was in the room. And it really was.
His second song was a bout a toll booth worker in New Hampshire (he’s from New Hampshire). The song was full of wonderful details. He told us that his friend loved the song and that his chorus “I remember you. You remember me” was totally Sarah McLachlan-and he sang a line of her song too.
Anderson continually asked everyone to step closer, making it ever more intimate as more people came in. He said that he doesn’t go to church but his spirituality comes from music and events like this where all different people–friends and lovers and relatives ans strangers–all gather together and live in one moment as it happens.
For one of the songs he asked us to echo the first line of the chorus, which we did. And when we echoed the second line, he stopped us and said that he didn’t think it worked. he confirmed it with us and then said we should only do that first line. We laughed and agreed and continued.
He thanked Tim Showalter (the heart of Strand of Oaks) for letting him play like this and then he said “This song is for Tim, it’s “For Mike.”” And we laughed and he said he didn’t realize how strange that would sound. This was a touching song written for a friend whose wife had recently died.
The final song was “All My Love For You.” He had the lights turned down even further (almost dark) and taught us the chorus. As the song was moving along he jumped off of the chair and walked to the middle of the room and told everyone to take two steps closer. He was surrounded as he sang. And he encouraged us to close our eyes as we sang along. As we sang, he told a story between our lines. Eventually we opened out eyes and ended the song and it was over.
I have never been in an environment quite like that. It was really amazing–warm and comfortable and strangely powerful.
The only bummer thing about it was how quickly the vibe dissipated after his set was over.