If you missed Lauren Ruth Ward’s performance at the Bootleg Theater this past Friday, you missed out on some serious magic. As the evening began, the audience quickly flowed into the tiny bar stage at the Bootleg Theater, buzzing with excitement. The much-awaited night had come – Ward’s triumphant unveiling of her debut full length album. The house was packed – oversold even – and rightly so. This was going to be a memorable night, and the eager crowd knew it.
The two openers – Vavá and Laura Jean Anderson respectively – got the night off to an energetic start. Dressed in a long velvet robe with long bangs to match, Vanessa Wheeler, AKA Vavá, playing a short set, primed the small theater with her brand of funky, yet introspective indie pop. Following her was Washington native Laura Jean Anderson, a hard-rocking woman who tore up the stage with her blend of southern twang and heavy-hitting grunge, showing off her impressive pipes as she belted note after note.
As Ward took the stage at last, the room was instantly filled with the overflowing warmth and charisma that comes so naturally to her. After welcoming and thanking the crowd effusively, she launched into her set, which included the entirety of Well, Hell from beginning to end. Adding an original touch to the show, a duo calling themselves the Liquid Courage Light Show created unique psychedelic visuals by swirling droplets of multicolored ink and water on a projector screen.
After laying down the first few brand new tracks from Well, Hell, Ward launched into a rollicking rendition of the tongue-in-cheek “Make Love to Myself,” an obvious crowd favorite. The energy flowing between Ward and the audience was wildly palpable as the entire room sang along with enthusiasm. She followed this with the equally crowd-pleasing “Blue Collar Sex Kitten,” cutting down society’s insistence on labels as she belted, “I’m a dyke, dated guys, ain’t a crime, won’t apologize for my tribe.” A sweet surprise came in the form of a guest appearance from Ward’s fiancee and fellow musician LP, who joined her on a new song introduced as “Sheet Stains,” an affectionate duet about navigating long distance relationships.
The entire night was a joyous celebration of the hard work put in by Ward, her band members, and her many friends that contributed, and she showed this profusion of gratitude in her every expression. It was obvious that this woman was in her element as she held nothing back in her performance, beaming at the crowd with pride and appreciation. As is true with all good things, the night eventually came to an end, but Ward softened the blow by sticking around to provide plentiful hugs and cheek kisses to everyone who approached. An often rare and precious quality, Lauren Ruth Ward’s incredible generosity is what made the show so phenomenal, and not one onlooker left without a smile spread across their face.