The Weakerthans @ the 9:30 Club

by | Sep 23, 2009 | MUSIC

Midway through The Weakerthans’ encore during their set at Washington DC’s 9:30 Club, I look to my left and lead singer and songwriter John K. Samson is standing five spots away from me, watching the show.

Midway through The Weakerthans’ encore during their set at Washington DC’s 9:30 Club, I look to my left and lead singer and songwriter John K. Samson is standing five spots away from me, watching the show. He is jumping up and down with both fists in the air as the band performs the song “Wellington’s Wednesdays” off of their first album, Fallow. He is having as good if not better of a time than anyone else I can see in the crowd.

In his place on stage, holding his guitar, and awkwardly thumbing his way through a solo, is a teenage boy who, mere minutes ago, was standing where Samson now stands in the crowd. Midway through the song, Samson grabbed him, pulled him on stage, handed him his guitar, introduced him, and announced to the crowd that he would be making a guest appearance for the song’s guitar solo.

What makes John K. Samson one of the greatest performers I will ever see is not the incredible depth of his songwriting, though that is why I am here in the first place. It is the fact that he still knows exactly how it feels to be in the crowd, watching musicians interact with one another and make amazing music. He understands how important it is to someone to be brought up on stage and get to play along with one of their favorite bands. Samson is not merely happy to oblige a fan in this manner – he is thrilled to do so. His ability to empathize with his fans keeps him honest, and honesty is one of the best traits you can ask for from an artist.

Every member of the Weakerthans is an outstanding musician, so performing their songs live is not a challenge to them. It is effortless, and their smooth delivery made all the anticipation of seeing them live well worthwhile. The set list was an outstanding selection, and while they didn’t perform some of my favorites (“Watermark”, “Anchorless”, “Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure”), it is hard to imagine having to compose a playlist from a catalog as impressive as the Weakerthans’ own. All four of their studio albums seemed to receive equal attention – about four or five songs from each album. Plenty of crowd favorites were played (“Aside”, “The Reasons”, “Plea From a Cat Named Virtute”, and “One Great City!”), along with a few personal favorites that I didn’t necessarily expect to get representation (“Night Windows”, “Wellington’s Wednesdays”, and “Bigfoot!”).

It was a night that I had looked forward to for a long time and will not soon forget. The Weakerthans live performance was an experience that magnified the emotions I feel when I listen to their albums – sad, beautiful tunes that sing about the hardships of love, while at the same time embracing the uniqueness and ecstasy of life. I hope that next time you can join me.

Matt Ringer

Matt Ringer

A meat popsicle.

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