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Ryanhood

The Chocolate Bar, Boston, MA

September 25, 2009

Ryanhood, formed by Arizona natives Ryan Green and Cameron Hood, gave a free concert last week in their second home of Boston to a small but excited crowd of fans and newcomers. Defined primarily by smooth vocals and slick guitar work, the duo performed a mixed repertoire of flashy jams and deep ballads that demonstrated why, in spite of not having a Wikipedia page about them, they continue to gain new fans with every show.

The Chocolate Bar is a chocolate–themed (quelle surprise) cafe on the southern limit of the Boston College campus, and Ryanhood was right at home in more ways than one. Boston and Cambridge venues have a special meaning for Green and Hood, who were hopping over from a tour in the Midwest in order to perform in town. Green studied music at our harmonious neighbor school, the Berklee College of Music, and Hood has personal family ties to MIT. The pair first began performing together full-time as street performers on the streets and subway platforms of Boston. In fact, their unreleased song “(You Have To) Start Somewhere” details their transformation from street performers into a real gigging band in three verses and makes mention of an MIT dormitory, a reference that reflects their personal, real life inspired songwriting.

The show opened with a few of the songs from Ryanhood’s newest album, The World Awaits, before opening the floor to requests from the audience. After a request for “Free Bird” was made (and indulged for about 30 seconds), the crowd called for songs throughout the evening. They started with one of Ryanhood’s older and arguably better-known, “Welcome You Into My Head,” a relentlessly fast number that showcases Green’s guitar talents. That Green has come to be known as “Maestro” (and is cheered on as such) serves to indicate his level of virtuosity.

During breaks in the music, Green and Hood bantered and improvised with one another and with the crowd, a skill they honed as street performers. They touched on topics like whether or not Green’s winning free video game rentals from Blockbuster was cool. The audience was asked to sing along when possible, with Hood taking charge when shyness was dominant, revealing a participatory aspect of Ryanhood’s live performances that isn’t always evident on their recordings.

After the end of the show, with an upbeat blowout finish called “Nothing But the Real Thing” and the aforementioned autobiographical “(You Have To) Start Somewhere” as an encore, the last request of the night was “Back Into Blue.” This is a rich love song on the opposite end of the spectrum from the rock-style jams that got the show started. Its emphasis is on sweet vocal harmony. Ryanhood performed it half an hour after the encore, with their guitars unplugged, the AV equipment put away behind them, and a dozen devotees gathered around a 10 foot radius around them — all they were missing was the guitar case waiting for dollar bills from passersby.

The show at the Chocolate Bar repeated my experiences from previous Ryanhood shows — an entertaining band dynamic coupled with guitar–centric songs from a playlist that offers more and more gems as it grows. If you’re interested in acoustic guitar, independent music, or bands that don’t mind manning their own merchandise table and connecting with fans, Ryanhood is performing in Cambridge again this Sunday at 3 p.m. at Cambridge Vineyard, as well as at Berklee’s student–run Cafe 939 in Boston on November 14.