by NICK BUCHANAN
"You're so cute," Ryn Weaver told me in the lobby of the Newport Music Hall after her gig on Friday. "Are you in college? What do you study?"
Off stage, Weaver carries herself as a warm, outgoing friend. As I stepped towards her for my meet and greet session, she dived in for an embrace before the photographer ushered us against a marble staircase for a photo opportunity. Five more hugs, a kiss, and two dozen selfies later, I was on my way out of the venue, surprised that the girl I had just met was the same girl who effortlessly captured attention from hundreds of audience members just an hour before.
She took her spot on the stage three hours after the doors opened, allowing time for sets from two opening acts: Holychild, a purposely gaudy pair of musicians who performed a stripped set with a keyboard, drum set, and vocal sampler after some equipment was lost in the transfer from Chicago to Columbus, and ASTR, a New York-based duo who relied heavily on vocal playback but piqued attention with some impressive production. The two acts were no match, however, for Weaver, who caused massive outcries as she appeared in the haze of synthetic fog that was being blown through the venue by a dingy, old box fan back stage.
While singing, Weaver is a category five hurricane. Her body spasms with energy and her voice rattles with vibrato in full-force, keeping audiences entertained and the energy alive for the entirety of her hour-long set. There weren't any flashy outfits or gimmicks; just Weaver in a vintage black pantsuit, a resonating voice, and more energy than can be provided by a dose of Five Hour Energy. During many songs, she sacrificed a bit of vocal stability in favor of spastic dance moves, but the trade-off was justifiable; the crowd's electricity was fueled on her stage presence as she whipped her hair around her head and threw herself around the stage like a rag doll.
Her part-pop, part-folk, part-rock productions were intensified into venue-shaking backdrops by touring band members with the implementation of a real drum kit, live bass, and live guitar. In the cases of "Pierre" and "OctaHate," it's almost impossible to imagine bigger climaxes, but they sure did happen on Friday. In fact, my ears are still ringing in the aftermath of that last one... but it was completely worth it. The party gave way for sentiment only once, during a dedication to Weaver's late grandfather in the form of "Traveling Song" -- and even then, the audience stared in awe and sang every word.
The music on Weaver's debut album, The Fool, bears equal importance to the story it tells; the 11 track album has a clear story arc of her time spent traveling and living out of her car. The set list of this show was a lively retelling of the album's tale -- still opening the "Runaway" and closing with "New Constellations," with the other nine tracks given a new order in between. Her album and the story it tells pose the question, "Are you a fool for settling for something you've always wanted, or are you a fool for running away and looking for more?" By the end of her Columbus concert, the answer became clear: "You can run if you want to / If you want to, you know you can run." Every song, minus "Traveling Song," transformed into separate jubilant celebrations of exploration, justifying her days of open-ended journeys. After all, none of this -- the music, the story, the tour -- would have ever transpired if she weren't a runaway, a misfit, a fool.
The Misfit Toys Tour runs in the United States through the rest of November.