20 Watts

An Evening with Ari Hest at Funk by laoppedi
February 21, 2010, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Concert Stories | Tags: , , , , , ,

Photo credit: Emelia Natalicchio

PREVIEW: VISIT Ari Hest’s Myspace

We all know and love the small-time, intimate environment at Funk ‘n Waffles. Coupled with the unmistakable scent of cooking oil that permeates your clothes and makes the air thick, the close stage, close quarters and full concert schedule make for a delightful evening.

Soothing indie acoustic tunes drifted amongst the small audience at Funk ‘n Waffles yesterday, as New York City’s Ari Hest visited Syracuse. Zack duPont and Sarah Aument opened. DuPont’s skilled playing was a fitting compliment to his more simple lyrics, and Aument provided her usual eclectic blend of mellow, goofy, groovy and haunting tunes to prime the audience.

Ari Hest took the stage with only his guitars, and proceeded to please the diehard fans and recent converts seated at tables around the room. His range was clear from the very beginning–from deep, gravelly and emotional to free soprano sequences.

Hearing Hest live was a pleasure, his live performance living up to (and sometimes surpassing, depending how much you like unadorned acoustic) his recordings. His head bobbing, toe tapping, subtle stomps and swaying were mesmerizing when put to his skilled strumming.

Hest was able to make a connection with almost everyone in the room; he spoke to many of them personally before his set, and took multiple requests (including one from yours truly). During “Making the Move,” he forgot a stanza, and proved himself human as he cursed mid-song.  It was a brilliant finish, however, and stood as one of the most emotionally powerful songs he played.

Hest’s songs prove him to be a hopeless romantic–or, at the very least, someone with a lot of experience in dealing with heartbreak. The subjects of his ballads ranged from watching someone close move away to bitterness at past lovers; from a promise to appear in memory and make someone miserable to pleading for a special someone to stay. Perhaps it’s best that he sings about it, though, especially if other responses to his work are similar to the feedback from Funk.

The older couple to my right (“older” meaning not college-aged) lit up at every groove that Hest struck out on the guitar; the woman knew all of the words to every song and grabbed her husband’s hand periodically in excitement. I turned around to a few contented faces, eyes closed and heads swaying. Even I’ll admit that it was difficult not to smile and nod along with songs like “CranberryLake” (a recent XM Radio hit) and “I’ll Be There.”

Hest claims his musical inspiration from artists like Patty Griffin and Elvis Costello–the great Americana folk rock icons that he’s met through his burgeoning career. If his show at Funk ‘n Waffles is any indication, he’s certain to be an addition to the category of great American singers and songwriters.

Story by Hannah Warren

–Photography by Emelia Natalicchio

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