I first saw the eclectic Red Wanting Blue at the Bunbury Festival in Cincinnati over the summer of 2013 and instantly fell in love with their lyric-driven rock ‘n’ roll style that is reminiscent of Collective Soul and Better than Ezra. Then, when I heard they were coming to Philadelphia to promote their upcoming album, I knew I had to see them. The band spent 14 years traveling the country and building a grassroots following until signing with Fanatic Records in 2010. The band was known for its traveling set, a stage that is littered with small curios and knickknacks from Salvation Army stores and thrift stores around the country. It gives RWB shows a very homey and inviting feel.
This tour (aptly named “The Dime-Store Circus Tour”) was a going-out of sorts for the band. In the interview published in The Triangle’s Oct. 18 issue, Scott Terry said, “This is the last ringing of the bells for the setup before we move into a new phase and do something else.” Upon entering the downstairs stage room of World Cafe Live, I immediately sensed the personality of the set. The venue was not only a last cry for the band’s signature style, but it was also a coming-home for Scott, who is a New Jersey native. The stage featured a variety of fun and hilarious souvenirs from the band’s travels, complete with a vintage Lite-Brite spelling out “RWB.”
Adam McHeffey, the lead guitarist of the opening band, Swear and Shake, came out wielding a homemade sign bearing the group’s name complete with antique Christmas lights. It definitely set the mood for the rest of the night. As the other members of Swear and Shake took the stage with McHeffey, the excitement in the air was palpable on both sides of the microphone. McHeffey and Kari Spieler (vocals and guitar) both thanked Terry and RWB for the gift and jumped right into their upbeat songs. Swear and Shake’s signature folk-rock style had everyone up and moving. They played an energetic hourlong set comprised of tracks from their first album, “Maple Ridge,” and their cleverly named EP, “Extended Play.” After they finished their set, they proceeded to pack up their own gear because they were both musicians and their own roadies.
Terry made his entrance with a huge smile on his face. The rest of the band — Mark McCullough on bass and chapman stick, Greg Rahm on guitar and keyboard, Dean Anshutz on drums, and Eric Hall on the lead guitar and lap steel — followed, and the yelling from the crowd picked up. Terry picked up his signature ukulele and tuned it as the crowd began to cram in close. When it came time to play “Audition” (arguably RWB’s most prolific song), the crowd was loosened up and passionately sang along with Terry.
RWB seems to attract a very music-oriented following; the crowd was more inclined to have a good time listening to the music than acting like crazed maniacs, which was a rather appreciated change from other rock concerts.
As the set came to a close, Terry thanked the crowd and walked calmly off the stage. The rest of the band went out with more of a bang, clearly having fun with it, in a very rock ‘n’ roll fashion. There was an extended outro, and then they exited the stage with nothing more than a wave. However, the crowd decided that they hadn’t heard enough. Terry and Hall eventually returned for an encore after ear-splitting pleas from the crowd. They played a special acoustic song, “My Name is Death,” then finished the show with two more songs.
Afterward, RWB and Swear and Shake gathered around their merchandise tables to talk with fans, shake hands and sign autographs. I had a chance to talk with all of them and touch base with Terry. This concert was a truly intimate affair. It was close and personal, not only because of the small venue but also due to the fact that it was a homecoming for Terry and the audience was full of his close friends and family.