Concert Reviews

Why Strings & Wood Concerts Are More Than Just Concerts

Attending a five-year anniversary party, you naturally have some expectations. You expect, as you walk down the steps to the Soiled Dove Underground, to find an air of celebration. People doing shots at the bar. Friends hugging. A raucous, excited crowd chatting away as a enthusiastic performer plays on stage. What you don't expect, at all, is to hear no chatter as you walk in and turn to see that not a single person is mingling by the bar.

See also: Strings and Wood Celebrates Five Years of Rethinking the Concert Experience

But that was the case early on this particular night. Instead, every chair in in the venue was taken and every pair of eyes was transfixed on Lara Ruggles. The Denver songwriter was on stage belting out her soul, singing personal songs full of creative metaphors and turns of phrases and delicate guitar strums. No one was talking, no one was playing on his phone. Ruggles had the room's undivided attention. As it almost always does, the Strings & Wood organization made sure the anniversary show was unlike any other concert you would go to on a Friday night.

Strings and Wood is a nonprofit that has worked the last five years to create a community between artists and audience, host intimate shows that feel more like special events and make sure musicians are well taken care of. (You can read more about the organization's work here).

So it's fitting that for the five year anniversary party, intimate and special are the first adjectives that come to mind. They kept in the chairs and tables Soiled Dove often has set up, so people weren't as tempted to wander or be distracted or miss any tiny moment of music, and they made sure the time between sets was minimal.

Performers Stelth Ulvang, Ruggles and Seryn all took time to talk about their songs, sharing more with the audience than they would at a larger venue.

It was pleasantly refreshing to see artists get the attention they deserve, to see that when Art Heffron (who runs Strings & Wood) says he makes sure artists are taken care of, he meant more than just getting fair pay. They get to play under the best circumstances, and the audiences gets to see something wholly unique. Concerts are at their best when the energy between musicians and audience is enveloping, when there's something separate from the songs being played. It's a sharing of soul and love and passion -- or at least that's what this five-year anniversary party (and many other Strings and Wood shows) are.

After Ruggles finished her sets and the lights went up, the party atmosphere finally showed itself. Heffron ran around talking to friends, accepting warm hugs from everyone. "Her voice!" and "Wow, that last song!" was on the lips of the wine-tipsy attendees. When Seryn took the stage, they were introduced by Ruggles' and Heffron's praise about how the Denton band provided a transformative experience when it played the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in 2013. The band was full of long hair and denim and the kind of passion that drives a man to leap around on stage while howling into the body of his ukulele. It was easy to understand Hoffren's awe. Fans stood around tables and chairs in the front, unwilling to restrained by a seat. In the back, couples stood and swayed together, and everyone was listening and realizing why Strings & Wood has made such an impact the last five years, and why it'll be around for five more.

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Isa Jones is an editor in Jackson Hole; her writing has appeared all over the Internet and occasionally in print.
Contact: Isa Jones

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