The Strumbellas Show Substance Beneath Everyday Surface


The Strumbellas Show Substance Beneath Everyday Surface

by Alexa Buechler

The stage is blue with a skeleton sitting in the background, which screams alternative and indie rock. Before the show, people anxiously leave the merchandise stand to get a front row, second row, third row spot in the General Admission Only Marquee Theater in Tempe, Arizona.

Eagerness filled the room as the lights flash teasingly, encouraging all the fans to cheer even though no one had appeared on the stage yet. Finally, the calls of the audience are answered and the Strumbellas file out onto the stage.

They looked like a team of misfits. Simon Ward, the lead singer and guitarist, was wearing a flannel and hadn’t shaved way past no-shave November. Isabel Ritchie, the violinist, was dressed elegantly in a pink dress for the occasion. And Dave, well, David Ritter was wearing a hat that reads “DAVE.”

The indie rock band started the set with the song “Shovels and Dirt” which was from their latest album Hope. The audience instantly roared because of their well-known lyrics “it ain’t worth living if you don’t get hurt” and “If we all die young, then we won’t get hurt.” A popular quality of the Strumbellas is their catchy lyrics and relatability, which could be said for plenty of musicians and songwriters. What sets them apart from the group is that they are people you could see on the street. They have not been idolized because of looks or surface judgments.

Eventually, Simon Ward interrupted the song, and said in a way of introducing himself, “I know what you’re thinking: we’re even prettier in person.” His lively personality showed through easily on the stage. After that the first song continued with the throbbing of drums then Dave Ritter and Simon Ward brilliantly played off each other’s vocals.

The Strumbellas are Canadian, so when the first lyrics of “I climbed a mountain and never came back…” flew out of Simon Ward’s mouth, the audience knew to sing along or at least yell the Canadian “Eh,” along with the other band members.

Isabel Ritchie was paralyzing at the violin in her solo in “We Don’t Know.” Her face intent on each note she played, but the audience only hears the final masterpiece that flies intensely through the crowd. Then the crowd throws that intensity right back at her as she finishes off her solo.

The Strumbellas marvelously but predictably finished their set with their most popular song, “Spirits.” This tune is the one people know even when they don’t know the band. It’s catchy and upbeat, which creates almost a fangirling aspect in a very alternative and head-nod environment.

The overall performance of these gifted artists made for an exceptional night. Even if these concert-goers came for the lead band, the Strumbellas will be leaving Arizona with more fans than when they came.


Reach the writer: @alexa_buechler