Photo by Autumn Micketti
Tuesday found Ashland’s Unitarian Church filled to the brim with students and community members alike, as John Craigie took to the stage. Originally from Santa Cruz, CA but now based in Portland, Craigie’s mix of humbling humor and empathetic storytelling brought the audience to a place of hope and joy.
A little after 7pm, singer-songwriter Nicki Bluhm walked on stage in a royal purple, velvet pant suit and sparkly gold boots. Fans will know Bluhm from her band the Gramblers, but Bluhm is striking out on her own with the release of her solo record, To Rise You Gotta Fall. Beginning with an acapella ballad, Bluhm wowed the audience with her strong voice that recalls the likes of blues and country singers of the past. Bluhm was candid and vulnerable about her life, discussing her divorce and her dating life while happily making jokes about the highs and lows of it all. The performer’s mixture of indie folk and country held something for everyone.
Bluhm added an extra element to the performance with the addition of a boombox as she explained, “the van wasn’t big enough to fit my band.” She sang her new holiday single, Buon Natale, with a pre-recorded band track flowing out of the boombox. Bluhm sang about Christmas and festive cheer to a tango like theme with a garland of tinsel draped around her neck, working the stage like she was a dedicated lounge singer. Bluhm wrapped up her set with the title track of her album, To Rise You Gotta Fall, finishing to a strong applause.
John Craigie came out on stage, guitar in hand, looking like Eric Foreman from That 70’s Show, complete with bell bottoms and floppy hair. Craigie continually brought tears of laughter to the audiences’ eyes with his comedic stories between each song all while capturing our attention with his Bob Dylan-esque voice and poignant lyrics. Craigie played many fan favorites such as, “Let’s Talk This Over, When We’re Sober,” a tune depicting the stress Burning Man can put on couples, as well as “I Am California” a beautiful love letter to the state of California. During his comedic interludes Craigie painted pictures of his experiences through witty humor. Discussing everything from the hippy flossing party (the dental hygiene kind, not the dance) he started at High Sierra Music Festival to not knowing what to do if the world is going to end. Craigie asked, “Should I get a Roth IRA or buy a swimming pool full of blueberries and eat my way out? I don’t know!” Mentioning that he’s been trying to figure out if he should invest his money and prepare for the end or throw caution to the winds and do what inspires him.
Craigie brought Nicki Bluhm out for his last song, “I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man,” a story about a man Craigie met at a bar who told him Bob Dylan stole the song idea from him. The singer came out for a one song encore and received a standing ovation at the end of the night.
Brought to Ashland by the Ashland Folk Collective, hopefully Craigie will be returning in the near future. The AFC will be announcing their 2020 season soon, check out their website to stay updated.