BY JESS BECK | Go Venue Magazine
This show was a little different for me. Having photographed at The Slowdown before, you never really know what to expect. But this was beautiful. Rather than fighting for a place to stand and get a clear shot of the artists, there were folding chairs appropriately placed in front of the stage, setting the tone for what was to come. It was a warm, intimate atmosphere where around 45 fans could enjoy the harmony of blues and folk notes soaked in tales of both sorrow and joy.
Sawyer Fredericks is a bit of an enigma, and on October 16th, 2019 at The Slowdown, I was finally able to understand why. Yes, he’s an incredibly talented and accomplished singer/songwriter. He’s passionate. He’s emotive. He’s only 20 years old, but he sings and writes with all the passion of a much older soul. His latest record, aptly titled “Hide Your Ghost,” could also very well have been titled, “Haunted by Ghosts” as his themes, rhythms, and lyrics all stem from what appears to be the experience of a life already lived. After signing to Republic Records after winning Season 8 of the mega-hit television series “The Voice,” he left to record independently to gain more control of his creative process – a decision that resonated well with his fan base.
Taking the stage first was an artist named Beth Bombara. Displaying an overall cheerful disposition, her four piece opened with “I Only Cry When I’m Alone,” a song that, at least to me, describes all the pain of a broken relationship – a theme that would carry throughout the night as both artists exchanged tales of brokenness and pain in a melodic, expressive form. Beth’s ensemble continued to win the audience over with tracks such as “When I Woke,” and received high praise for their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door,” which was a pleasant experience to have it heard preformed in the right key.
After a brief tear down session, Sawyer took the stage. He needed no introduction, and in true fashion openly told the crowd, “I don’t like promoting myself, so I’m just going to start playing.” He opened the show with “Am I To Blame,” following up with “Flowers For You,” “Born,” and ending the first set with his successful rendition of, “I’m A Man Of Constant Sorrow.”
The rest of the band departed for a little while, giving Sawyer the opportunity to play some solo selections for the audience. And let me tell you – this is an artist who holds his fans close to his vest. “Well…I’m going to do some solo songs for a bit. What do you guys want to hear?” He played a rendition of “Take It All,” as well as a few unreleased tracks from his latest project to be released later in 2020. He then played “Hide Your Ghost,” before having the rest of the band come up for a few more tracks.
Last on the list was a track called “4 Pockets,” and when the band thanked the audience for coming out on a chilly Wednesday evening, they collectively clamored for an encore. After a brief moment, Sawyer came out solo with his acoustic guitar and played what was quite possibly the most passionate rendition of “What A Wonderful World” I’ve ever heard. And in retrospect, it was probably the perfect way to end the show. A brilliant reminder to everyone present that, even after hearing tales of sorrow, brokenness, and crushing pain, that the world is still a wonderful place if you want to make it one.
Beth BombaraAll images © Jess Beck
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