Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Live Shows: Ratboys and Free Range, Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA 9/28/23

Photo by Ken Sears

I've been a fan of Ratboys for a while now, but they're just one of those bands I haven't gotten around to seeing yet. Partially because they hadn't played in Boston for four years, but sometimes timing just doesn't work. After I heard their fantastic new album The Window, I knew the time had to be now. Luckily, the swung through Boston at Brighton Music Hall, and the stars finally aligned for me.

Ratboys have proven to be a hard to define band. For some albums they have more of an alt-country sound, some are straight up indie rock, some are indie rock with a slight twang to them. Live all of those variations come right up against each other, but since artists that combine indie rock and alt-country are kind of my jam, it was a perfect night for me. Seeing Ratboys in 2023 might just be the sweet spot to see them. They've been around to be perfectly polished but are still playing smaller clubs, and, seeing how great The Window is, they won't be playing clubs this size much longer. Plus, they've gained a cult like following of hardcore fans that knew every song, especially older ones. We've been writing about Ratboys for six years now, and this crowd made me feel like a newbie.

Photo by Ken Sears

I have to bring up the song "The Window" for this review. I adore this song, but I was dreading it being played live. It's a song that hits incredibly close for personal reasons, as it's about Julia Steiner's grandfather having to say goodbye to her grandmother through a window during the start of COVID. And then my mind starts wandering and I realize that I'll be saying goodbye like this to a lot of people down the road. I'm usually a mess by the end of the song due to the newfound overly emotional state I find myself in postpandemic/in middle age. Was I a mess at the end of the song's placement halfway through their set? Not as bad as I feared, luckily.

Photo by Ken Sears

For an opener, Ratboys brought fellow Chicago artist Free Range with them. I didn't realize Free Range was opening until a day or two before the show., and they might have been the perfect opener for Ratboys. Sofia Jensen's musical project has that perfect blend of indie rock meets alt-country for this tour, just a more mellow version. They may have been opening, but as the show went on and the applause got louder and more sustained between each song, if they do this pairing again it could very well be a co-headline tour. The only other show I've seen this happen at this level was when an unknown Mogwai opened for Pavement and completely won over the crowd by the end of their set.

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