About halfway through the Ruston Kelly show at TLA Saturday night, my wife texted me to ask how it was. I was coming up short on descriptors, so I told her it was very Dashboard Confessional-y. I meant that with the utmost respect.
Ruston Kelly’s self-branded “Dirt Emo” would feel very much at home with the acoustic guitar-driven sing-along crowd. And sing-along the crowd did. So invested were they in the lyrical content he provided that when he sang the original “Teenage Dirtbag” lyrics “My lip starts to shake” instead of his more profane cover, it drew an audible reaction from the crowd, causing Kelly to chuckle and backup the song as the entirety of TLA erupted with “My d*** starts to shake!”
The road that led Kelly to TLA has been littered with personal demons, both public and private. Much of his lyrical content reflects that journey, so witnessing so much of it exuded from grinning faces was a juxtaposition. But, there is much joy in the sound, as bleak as the content can be. Joy in overcoming, coming together, joy in being you no matter how rough the path has been. “You can be who you are here,” he stated early on in the set. A mantra worth repeating in a world that is increasingly vocally judgemental.
Touring behind what might be his most personal album yet, The Weakness, Kelly has mastered his own weaknesses and sharpened them into a formidable weapon worth wielding.
Openers Purr was the perfect choice to kick things off. Playing a stripped-down version of their southern-influenced indie rock, the duo from New York’s two-voices, two-guitars crafted anthems floated over the appreciative crowd gathered for their set. Their new album, Who Is Afraid of Blue, is out June 2nd. Check out photos from the concert and the setlist below.