Confident and Colorful

by Rhoda Yun

photography courtesy of Rhoda Run

An undeniable presence with an energy reminiscent of a rampant child, Lauren Ruth Ward threw everyone in the cozy Red Room of Cafe 939 into a euphoric disarray. Labeled alternative-indie rock but embodying a sound deserving of its own genre, Ward is the manifestation of contemporary rock and roll.

“I love a lot of folk music from the early 2000s like Mirah, Elliott Smith,” she said in an interview. “In my heart of hearts, I really love music from the ’60s and ’70s: classic rock, disco, Motown.”

Grace Givertz, an indie-folk singer-songwriter from Boston, opened up the show. Her voice and presence were a warm welcome into the space, which was just beginning to fill up. Givertz was a one-woman powerhouse, accompanying herself with guitar, harmonica and a foot tambourine. Both her performance and her style, which included a pair of lime-shaped earrings, were incredibly refreshing.

Slugs, an indie-rock band based in Los Angeles, sped up the pace of the show a notch following Givertz’s pacifying performance. The lead singer and bassist lead the four-part band, harmonizing frequently. Their interactions were akin to that of siblings: comfortable, playful and able to feel and understand each other’s energy instinctively.

By the time Ward came on stage, the room was filled, and rightfully so. Newcomers couldn’t have possibly anticipated Ward’s bursting talent and transformative energy. The few devout fans who showed up were standing front row, engrossing themselves in the show and reciting lyrics by heart like a prayer. Others who were less familiar with Ward stood close by, in awe of her charm. They watched vigorously, refusing to miss a moment.

“Who are you people that came and gave us a shot?” she echoed into the audience.

When she emerged, small but mighty, no one could miss her. A lover of vintage fashion, Ward wore patriotic American-flag-printed pants and a denim jacket adorned with her name across the back.

“For bigger production performances, I love collaborating with different vintage distributors,” said Ward of her on-stage style. “Lust and Fond and Vintage On Hollywood are my favorites!”

Her look, complete with her iconic rainbow fringe and long, shaggy hair complimented her spirit. Considering the fact that she started as a hair dresser before becoming a rock star, her distinctive hair came as no surprise. The Janis Joplin of modern day, Ward is a character rare for her time but reminiscent of the past. Her presence triggered nostalgia of the ’60s that could not be ignored.

At the end of each song, Ward was left breathless yet unstoppable. She poured all of her energy, physically and vocally into each song. Whether she was wrapping her hair around her head, thrusting herself into the audience or making vigorous but rhythmic movements with her body, her vocals remained strong and controlled. She proved herself a natural-born performer and there was never a moment when the audience was not enthralled in the performance. She gave them no choice.

Handing out microphones at one point to her most devout fans in the front, Ward encouraged audience participation. Ward weaved herself in and out of the crowd, providing an engaging experience for everyone as she hugged and shook hands with some lucky members. The show was not so much a performance as much as it was a party. Effortlessly, she made herself one with her audience. The barrier between performer and audience no longer existed, and everyone in the room got the chance to feel like they were a part of the show. By the end of her live Boston debut, everyone in the room was a fan.