Josh Ritter | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN
Clouds parted for Josh Ritter’s solo performance on the River Stage
Without the backing of his Royal City Band, Ritter proved his songwriting prowess with an impromptu acoustic set.
Walking back onto the festival grounds for the final day of XPoNential Fest, Wiggins Park looked completely waterlogged. Hurricane Ophelia hit hard throughout Saturday and continued to rain down concert-stopping torrents all the way into Sunday. We here at WXPN wouldn’t let a little rain stop us from celebrating 30 years of XPoNential Fest, though. Gates were held, set times were altered, and ponchos were adorned as fans waited patiently for any announcement regarding today’s lineup, included headliner Josh Ritter and his Royal City Band. Then, just as Leyla McCalla finished a heartwarming and intimate performance, Ritter was pushed up next. Whether it be a miracle, dumb luck, or tropical storm Ophelia herself being a big Josh Ritter fan (aren’t we all?); the moment he walked on stage the clouds parted…and the rain stopped.
Ritter stood alone on the River Stage clutching his acoustic guitar; the band was nixed due to technical limitations with the storm, but he remained ecstatic to play. He gave an earnest thanks to every fan that braved the weather and leapt into “Feels Like Lightning,” a fast and folky tune off of his 2017 project Gathering. It was a cheeky nod to the imperfect circumstances of the day, and with the sun finally peeking through the clouds it looked as though things were starting to turn around.
He continued strumming away, flying through “Strong Swimmer,” “Henrietta, Indiana,” and his classic 2003 track “Kathleen,” only stopping in between each song to thank the crowd for sticking around and listening. Halfway through his set, Ritter paid homage to The Sweetback Sisters, covering “Deputy Blues No. 2” like a young Bob Dylan, jaggedly strumming and tongue twisting through the story of a showdown between a criminal on the run and the law that’s hot on his trail.
Ritter’s acoustic adventure concluded with “Getting Ready to Get Down,” a WXPN fan favorite that had the crowd shaking off their damp raincoats and singing along to the beat of his percussive playing. After a tremendous applause and one final reciprocated “thank you” from Ritter, he excited the stage. Not five minutes later, the sky darkened and the rain began again. But for those short-lived forty minutes, a miracle occurred. The puddles and mud dried up, the sun shone down on the River Stage, and those that braved the rain were rewarded with a rare solo sermon from the mind of Josh Ritter.
Ritter’s latest album Spectral Lines was released this past April and he is currently on tour with his Royal City Band playing throughout the U.S and U.K through November, more information here.
- Feels Like Lightning
- Strong Swimmer
- Henrietta, Indiana
- Deputy Blues No. 2
- Getting Ready To Get Down